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UNC vs. Bucknell: Three things learned

Lingering pains, quality minutes, and crashing the boards.

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucknell Bison pulled to within one point of tying the defending champions in the second half, but by the end UNC had pulled away for a somewhat-comfortable 93-81 win. It’s the second game of North Carolina’s young season, and the first played with Joel Berry II, returning from his broken hand. The Heels will hit the road for the first time next Monday against the Stanford Cardinal. What did the game against the Bison teach us as the Heels prepare to face their first road test of the season?

  1. Joel Berry II was understandably off in his first game back in action. Berry made his first shot attempt of the game: a three-pointer to cap off an amazing series of ball movement off of a fast break. Everything was as it should be; he hadn’t missed a beat. But then he missed his next ten shots, including four other three-point attempts. Was it rust or was he forcing things a bit too much? The true answer is probably a little bit of both. He was more accurate from the free throw line, going five for six there, and he tied for the team lead in assists with six (Theo Pinson also had six). So it wasn’t all bad, but there’s still work to be done for sure.
  2. Sterling Manley might need some more minutes. My bold prediction was that Manley would be starting by the end of the season, and he’s backing me up with his play in the first two games. Manley notched his first double-double as a Tar Heel with 16 points (third on the team) and 13 just 17 minutes of game action. Those 16 points also came on a mere 10 shots. Manley has been efficient and deadly in his limited action so far this year. In 31 minutes across these first two games, Manley has 25 points, 21 rebounds, and no fouls. As another UNC big man once said, ball don’t lie.
  3. Winning the rebounding battle is key to Carolina’s success yet again. The best rebounding stat of the night is that Manley had as many offensive rebounds (7) as the entire Bucknell team. But obviously that doesn’t tell the entire story. Bucknell only rebounded 18% of their misses. UNC, on the other hand, rebounded 43% of their misses. Last year, only two of UNC’s losses came when they pulled down more defensive rebounds than their opponent: Kentucky and Virginia. The other five losses were all games in which UNC got outrebounded on the defensive glass.