CHAPEL HILL, NC (AP) — The No. 1 North Carolina players recalled it was just the start Monday night.
Caleb Love and RJ Davis scored 17 points apiece and the Tar Heels kicked off a season full of expectations as they edged away from UNC Wilmington with a 69-56 win Monday night.
“I think we all came out a little rusty,” striker Armando Bacot said. “It’s not easy to win a match. I’m glad it’s the first game and not later in the season.
Bacot added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Tar Heels, who were perhaps the most impressive on the defensive end. UNCW shot just 29.8 percent from the field.
The Tar Heels, who were NCAA Tournament runners-up in April, started the new season with the highest ranking for the first time in seven years. It’s a record 10th time North Carolina has been ranked No. 1 to start a season — one more than rival Duke.
“We only hit our stride last year in January, February,” forward Leaky Black said. “It’s a victory. It’s day 1, literally. I’m excited about the potential we have. Rome was not built in a day.
Trazarien White scored 19 points for UNCW, which faced a top team for the first time in program history. Skykeim Phillips had 11 points and Donovan Newby added 10. The Seahawks went 4-for-16 on 3-pointers.
“For us, it’s important to stick to the process,” UNCW coach Takayo Siddle said. “I think that’s something to build on.”
After an incredible NCAA Tournament for the Tar Heels last spring, sophomore coach Hubert Davis knows it will take time to get back to that level.
“It gives us a really good base on what we need to work on and improve on,” said coach Davis. “I hope it was the anxiety and nervousness of the first game.”
North Carolina led 32-21 at halftime behind Davis’ 11 points, but it wasn’t easy.
“We were rushing and taking bad shots,” Bacot said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the first game. »
He was tied 17-17 with six minutes left in the first half before a 12-2 run for the Tar Heels, who missed 10 of their first 14 shots before that push.
The Tar Heels have won their first game of a season for 18 consecutive years. North Carolina has won 21 consecutive Smith Center openers.
The North Carolina Reserves only managed six runs. UNCW held a 37-32 rebound advantage.
“They held me to nine rebounds,” said Bacot, a preseason All-American. “I would say it’s probably a bad game for me.”
North Carolina was credited with four assists, tying its lowest total since a double-overtime loss to Texas A&M in the 1980 NCAA Tournament.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is letting good shots go to get good shots,” Coach Davis said. “It just wasn’t there.”
It was all part of a clumsy offense.
“Sometimes we couldn’t even catch the basketball,” Coach Davis said. “I know we have a group of veterans, but it was a first game.”
On the other hand, UNCW’s three assists were the lowest for a North Carolina opponent since December 1975 against Kentucky.
UNCW: The Seahawks were competitive for most of the game and provided a lot of the physicality of the game. They managed 16 offensive rebounds, although they had plenty of opportunities for those who considered their horrible shooting touch. It was probably a good barometer for the Seahawks as they fell to 0-6 all-time against North Carolina.
“We’re emphasizing the rebound,” Siddle said. “It’s part of who we are with the offensive rebound. I wish I could have taken a few more shots.
North Carolina: It wasn’t the smoothest performance for the Tar Heels, but they’ll have time to work things out as they play their first four games at home. With four starters returning from last season’s squad, there’s plenty of experience in the roster. North West transfer Pete Nance completed the starting five. It was the 47th straight victory over non-conference competition in the state for the Tar Heels.
UNCW: Friday at home against Allen
North Carolina: Friday at home against College of Charleston
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