Tar Heels recover to win strange opener

With no fans and all the COVID-19 protocols, it didn’t look like a season opener at the Smith Center but with so many new faces it would have looked strange anyway. North Carolina, with eight new players, recovered from a lull in the second half to break open a close game, 79-60 over the College of Charleston. (11/25) Coming off his first losing season as a coach, the Tar Heels’ Roy Williams started two freshmen in the backcourt – Caleb Love, who led Carolina scoring with 17 points, and R.J. Davis, who added 11. The Tar Heels squandered a 14-point […]

With no fans and all the COVID-19 protocols, it didn’t look like a season opener at the Smith Center but with so many new faces it would have looked strange anyway. North Carolina, with eight new players, recovered from a lull in the second half to break open a close game, 79-60 over the College of Charleston. (11/25)

Coming off his first losing season as a coach, the Tar Heels’ Roy Williams started two freshmen in the backcourt – Caleb Love, who led Carolina scoring with 17 points, and R.J. Davis, who added 11.

The Tar Heels squandered a 14-point lead as Charleston’s Dontavius King drained a three to give the visitors a 43-42 lead with just under 15 minutes left in the game. But Davis made his biggest impact of the game seconds later with a drive to the hoop where he drew a foul. After his free throw, the Heels led 45-43 and they never trailed again.

The three-point play started a 17-0 run with 12 of the points coming from UNC freshmen including six from big guy Day’Ron Sharpe.

After getting up 59-43, the Heels never looked back pushing the lead up to as many as 21 points at 72-51 with 4:30 remaining.

Coach Williams said the 17-0 stretch was fueled mostly by aggressive defensive play. The Tar Heels mixed in some full-court pressure that bothered Charleston. UNC senior Andrew Platek, who shot poorly, was a gnat on defense forcing turnovers and coming up with steals.

While senior Garrison Brooks earned preseason ACC player of the year projections, he managed only three field goals while turning the ball over four times. He did have a team-high 11 rebounds but two other big men made a bigger overall impact. Sharpe, the 6-foot-10 265-pound freshman, had 13 points and 10 rebounds while Armando Bacot, a sophomore, scored 12 points and hauled down eight rebounds.

The larger Tar Heels had an advantage over the guard-heavy Charleston team and it came into play early as Carolina ran up a 16-2 lead as Charleston missed its first 11 shots of the game.

But the Heels couldn’t pull away as the team shooting was off – only managing 39.4 percent from the floor. Charleston got back in it by getting hot late in the first half and early in the second before the Tar Heels opened it up with that 17-0 run.

Charleston was led by Brevin Galloway’s 15 points.

Coach Williams said he expects his club to shoot much better as the year goes on, adding that this inexperienced team needed exhibition games and scrimmages, which weren’t allowed this season due to the coronavirus.

“This is going to be a better shooting team than we were last year,” Coach Williams said. “We didn’t show it tonight.”

Carolina, 1-0, will play UNLV Monday in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, which was relocated from Hawaii to Asheville, Coach Williams’ hometown.

For a boxscore and more on the game, please click here.