#9 North Carolina never gave Davidson a chance in the 98-65 victory over the Wildcats Sunday night in Chapel Hill. It was North Carolina’s seventh consecutive win over Davidson and gives the Wildcats their first loss of the season. Davidson shot a season-low 34% from the field and hit only 8-31 from three.
“North Carolina knocked us on our heels in the opening minutes of the game and they kept us on our heels throughout the game,” said Coach Bob McKillop. “They overpowered us in transition, they overpowered us on the glass, and they created chaos for our offense.”
UNC may boast one of the nation’s most efficient offenses, but it was their defense that shut the Wildcats down tonight. Joel Berry II led the way by making Jack Gibbs work even to touch the ball. Whenever Gibbs could get into the lane, there were hoards of defenders there. Gibbs, coming off of a career-high 41 against Charlotte on Tuesday night, was held to 19 points on 7-20 shooting (3-11 from three) and committed an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers.
“Sometimes, you go through a learning lesson when you miss shots – it throws everything else off,” said McKillop. “Sometimes the shooters try to make up for problems by making shots. And that’s not the way Jack runs our offense. That’s not the way our offense flows. He deviated from our offense quite a bit and I think he was pressing.”
Davidson came into the game top in the country in turnover percentage offensively. But UNC’s length caused 14 turnovers overall. Whenever Gibbs or Jordan Barham drove, UNC always had help from the weak side there to challenge every shot and swipe at the ball. In the half court, Davidson struggled to get good looks, often forced away from the three point line deep into the shot clock. In the rare moments when Davidson did get a good look from deep, nothing fell.
There was a general sloppiness in this game, as the Wildcats were careless with the ball at times. Trying to thread the ball through tight windows were a portion of the turnovers, but there also were dribbling errors and some passes to no one due to miscommunication.
Brian Sullivan, who scored a career-high 31 in the overtime loss the last time Davidson played at the Dean Dome in 2013, was held to 3-10 shooting as he was closely watched by All-American candidate Marcus Paige. Paige, who was playing his second game of the year after sustaining a broken hand, looked smooth in a more secondary role tonight, finishing with 13 points and 4 assists.
UNC started the game with a flurry, taking a 10-0 lead as Davidson missed its first 6 shots. Using their speed to get out in transition and their size to keep possessions alive with offensive rebounding, the Tar Heels were relentless in their attack, with 28 of their 54 points in the paint in the first half. A 22-8 run to close the half gave UNC a 47-24 lead. In the first half Davidson shot only 23.5% from the field.
“North Carolina knocked us on our heels in the opening minutes of the game and they kept us on our heels throughout the game,” said McKillop. “They overpowered us in transition, they overpowered us on the glass, and they created chaos for our offense.”
North Carolina dominated inside in the second half, with Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson having their way in the paint. They were two of five Carolina players in double-figures for the night. Though Davidson’s shooting improved, they were never able to get the lead under 20 points. Barham, who had some success getting to the rim, appeared to injure his ankle on a drive early in the second half, but would later return. A late 17-5 run from UNC would stretch the lead after Davidson had kept it around 20 points for much of the second half.
“I just watched the tape of the Charlotte game where they made everything,” said UNC coach Roy Williams after the game. “I think the defense had a little bit to do with it but I also think they missed shots they normally make.”
A year ago, North Carolina doubled Davidson’s rebounding total when the two teams met, and tonight it was more of the same, with the Tar Heels holding a 52-31 advantage on the boards. 15 of those were on the offensive end. McKillop attributed the poor rebounding to not having found a way to overcome Tyler Kalinoski’s departure yet. Where the star man from a year ago got a disproportionate amount of fifty-fifty balls, the Wildcats have not been winning those to the same extent this year.
On the injury front, Jake Belford suffered a concussion from an inadvertent blow to the head at the halftime buzzer and was on the ground for a few minutes before heading to the hospital for a CT scan.
Davidson will look to bounce back when they host Eastern Washington on Wednesday night at Belk Arena in a Gotham Classic matchup. Tipoff will be a late one at 8:30 pm.