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After ‘rusty’ opening win, No. 1 UNC takes on Charleston

Nov 7, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot (5) grabs a rebound against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The season didn’t start the way preseason No. 1 North Carolina wanted it to. Yes, the Tar Heels won their opener, but didn’t run away with the victory and looked fairly poor in multiple facets of the game.

“I think we all came out a little rusty,” said UNC’s Armando Bacot, the Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Player of the Year. “It’s not easy winning a game. I’m glad it’s the first game and not later on in the season.”

Hubert Davis’ Tar Heels will aim to play sharper Friday night when they host the College of Charleston in Chapel Hill, N.C.

UNC (1-0) beat in-state foe UNC-Wilmington 69-56 on Monday but did not look like a team with aspirations of getting back to the national championship game. The Tar Heels finished with just four assists — its fewest in a single game since a 1980 double-overtime loss to Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament.

Davis said those low assist numbers were a product of the Heels being off their game on the offensive end.

“I just felt like, especially on the offensive end, we were moving at such a nervousness, anxiousness type of pace that at times we couldn’t even catch the basketball,” Davis said. “My hope is that it was just the first game, anxiousness and nervousness that uncharacteristically put us in a position where we weren’t sharing the ball like we usually do.”

The good news is that UNC was sharp defensively, holding the visiting Seahawks to just three assists, the fewest by a Heels’ opponent since 1975. UNC-Wilmington shot just 29.3 percent from the floor.

RJ Davis and Caleb Love led the Heels in scoring with 17 points apiece, while Bacot had a near double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Bacot’s boards were enough to push him past Mitch Kupchak and Brad Daugherty on UNC’s all-time rebounding chart. The senior has 1,010 and needs just 17 to catch seventh-place Antwan Jamison.

“They held me to nine rebounds. I would say that’s probably a bad game for me and I didn’t think any of us played good today, specifically the starting five,” Bacot said. “We all kind of struggled with things, but we’re going to build on that. It definitely starts with me.”

The Charleston Cougars are 1-0 after opening with an 85-78 win over UT-Chattanooga. Sophomore guard Reyne Smith shot 5-for-10 from 3-point range on his way to scoring 24 points to lead the Cougars.

“(Smith is) an elite shooter and people make it hard for him to get looks,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey told the Post and Courier. “He got lost a little bit. He doesn’t need a lot of space. He’s like a closer in baseball. He has such a short memory.”

Jaylon Scott and Dalton Bolon each added 11 points apiece. It was Scott’s debut as a Cougar, and he also added five rebounds. He transferred in from NAIA Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., where he was the conference Defensive Player of the Year three times.

Charleston went 17-15 last season in Kelsey’s first year as head coach.

–Field Level Media