Tar Heels bounce back from loss to Kentucky, beat Davidson
North Carolina used a strong second half on Saturday to pull away from feisty Davidson at the Smith Center.
The Tar Heels defeated the Wildcats, 82-60, bouncing back from a 80-72 loss to Kentucky three days before Christmas.
Luke Maye finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds, the 22nd double-double for the senior from Huntersville. He was one of five UNC players in double figures, joined by Cameron Johnson (17), KennyWilliams (12), Garrison Brooks (11) and Nassir Little, who finished with 10 off the bench. It was the fourth consecutive game that Johnson has led the team in scoring, despite not getting his first basket until the 6:14 mark of the first half.
“I think we had some guys off the bench who gave us some moments,” coach Roy Williams said. “Those guys gave us a lift.”
Brandon Robinson (7 points), and Sterling Man- ley (5), joined Little in giving the home team lots of bench production. The North Carolina bench outscored the Wildcats 24-11.
The Tar Heels (9-3) were in a giving mood, sharing the ball at a high level. UNC had 20 assists on 26 made field goals against Davidson (9-4), which took an early firsthalf lead but never reco-
vered from a UNC run before the half.
The Wildcats went up 24-19 after a pair of free throws from Chapel Hill native Carter Collins, but scored nine points the rest of the first half as the Tar Heels got into an offensive groove.
The Tar Heels started the game by showing fans they worked on their defense during recent practices. UNC forced a shotclock violation on Davidson’s first possession of the game, but the Tar Heels’ offense took awhile to get clicking.
UNC had four turnovers in the first four minutes, three by Brooks, the sophomore forward who quickly found himself sitting next to UNC coach Roy Williams on the bench.
After the first media timeout of the game, the Tar Heels appeared to have things together offensively. UNC scored on seven straight possessions to go up 19-15. During that run Williams got scoring from his team in a variety of ways.
Manley hit two from the line, followed by a short jumper from Maye to put the Heels back in front 9-8. Manley hit another layup and freshman Little and Manley scored consecutive layups to make it 14-13 in favor of the Heels. Kenny Williams then got into the scoring act, knocking down a three from the right wing followed by a layup.
Davidson, though, wouldn’t go away, shooting 3-for-5 from the field during the same stretch to stay in striking distance, 19-15.
The bad side of the Heels came back to haunt them as they went 0-for-4 with two turnovers in a four-minute span. During that same time, Davidson went on a 9-0 run. Brooks would come in and make up for the early turnovers, scoring five of Carolina’s next six points before UNC really caught fire.
North Carolina went on a 10-2 run, highlighted by a Little putback dunk, and closed the came on a 6-0 run in the final 58 seconds.
Johnson followed Little’s dunk with a layup and a bucket from the right side of the basket, and knocked down a deep three to put Carolina ahead, 36-28, with 1:14 remaining in the half. Johnson’s three was followed by an old-fashioned three-point play from Maye to end the first half. UNC held the Wildcats to 26.7 percent shooting from the floor in the first half and forced seven turnovers.
The Tar Heels started the second half on an 11-4 run, as Davidson missed four straight baskets after starting the half 2-for-2 from the floor. UNC forced another shot-clock violation, and Johnson remained active on the offensive end of the floor, scoring a layup and chas- ing down an offensive rebound that led to two free throws.
The UNC defense, which looked like it had discovered new life, forced five turnovers in a sevenminute span as the Heels led by as many as 26 in the second half.
It was the final game of the calendar year for the Tar Heels, who were playing just their fourth game in 31 days. UNC hosts Harvard on Jan. 2 before opening conference play at Pittsburgh on Jan. 5. North Carolina improved to 6-0 at home and 8-0 when leading at the half.
The Tar Heels’ nonconference schedule has been brutal, with games against Michigan, Texas, Gonzaga and Kentucky, all in an attempt to prepare them for ACC play.
“I think we’ve played the kind of schedule that’s made our guys be attentive every game,” Williams said. “And not just go out there and go through the motions, so I hope that helps us.”
North Carolina's Nassir Little dunks against Davidson in the first half on Saturday in Chapel Hill.
Davidson’s Carter Collins (24) defends North Carolina’s Luke Maye in the first half Saturday in Chapel Hill.