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UNC lives up to their billing in beatdown against The Citadel

That’s more like it.

NCAA Basketball: Citadel at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve been waiting all season to see the UNC basketball team that was worthy of the #1 ranking heading into the season. There have been flashes and flickers of it at points, but tonight’s game against The Citadel was the first time we saw it wire-to-wire, and it resulted in a very solid 100-67 win against the Bulldogs.

The Tar Heels led for all but 50 seconds of game action, which has been hard to come by even in games against lesser competition. Carolina shot 44% from the field in the first half on their way to a 48-33 halftime lead, but they were even better in the second half, including a non-zero amount of garbage time minutes for the bench late. They shot 55% from the field after halftime.

There were a couple fundamental differences between this game and games they’ve played close early in the season. First off, the Tar Heels were incredibly unselfish with the basketball. They assisted on 24 of their 32 made field goals. Caleb Love had six assists and zero turnovers. Seth Trimble also got a good amount of burn at point guard and had five assists himself.

The other notable difference in this game was three-point shooting. Buckets from long distance have been incredibly hard to come by for Carolina this season, but they were certainly falling tonight against The Citadel. UNC shot 48% from beyond the arc, making 15 three-pointers. Love made four of his six attempts, Pete Nance made three of his four shots from distance, and Tyler Nickel hit three more.

Everything was just a little more effective for UNC tonight. They took advantage of their size disparity to out-rebound the Bulldogs 47-31, and Hubert Davis made good use of his bench with breathing room on the scoreboard to get 42 points from non-starters. Nickel was the leading scorer off the bench with 16 points, but Dontrez Styles and Jalen Washington had nine and six points, respectively.

Love was the team’s leading scorer with 17 points, and it was the most complete game we’ve seen out of the junior so far this season. Nance was just behind love with 16 points, and Armando Bacot joined them in double figures with 14. With 11 rebounds, Bacot moved into the top spot for most double digit rebound games in Carolina history.

With the bench getting minutes late and the Tar Heels closing in on the 100-point mark, Jackson Watkins hit a three with 12 seconds left in order to secure biscuits for everyone. We appreciate your efforts, Jackson.

One of the most frustrating things about how the very beginning of the season went is that everyone knew this team was capable of playing better than what we were seeing. This is a great example of what they are capable of when they play Carolina basketball, and that is what we got 40 minutes of this evening. The competition gets much harder than The Citadel moving forward, but the fundamentals that have been lacking in some of the games up to this point were much more evident in this one. Hopefully it’s something they can build on.

UNC will take on Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday at 3:00 pm.