UNC Rolls to Exhibition Win Despite Missing Pieces

CHAPEL HILL, NC — As test runs go, North Carolina had things revving and rolling Friday night, even without being fully assembled.

The preseason no. 1 Tar Heels sprinted past Johnson C. Smith, 101-40, in exhibition basketball at the Smith Center, as Caleb Love pumped in 20 points and Armando Bacot grabbed 20 rebounds.

Pete Nance scored 19 points, Bacot added 12 points and Love dished out eight assists while handling the lead guard duties without backcourt partner RJ Davis (sprained right hand), one of four UNC players missing on this night. Justin McKoy (non-COVID illness), Puff Johnson, (right knee soreness) and Jalen Washington (rehabbing injured knee) also weren’t in uniform.

No matter the absences, UNC still made quick work of the Division II Golden Bulls, 10 nights before the arrival of its season opener against UNCW. The Tar Heels bolted ahead 18-3 during the exhibition game’s first six-plus minutes, on the strength of 15 straight points. Love scored nine early points as part of that surge. He finished 4-for-9 from 3-point range.

UNC uncorked scoring tears throughout. In the second half, Nance’s line-drive 3-pointer from the top of the key pushed the lead across the 40-point threshold, to 78-36. UNC scored the next 19 points, capped by Will Shaver’s jumper to make it 87-36. The Tar Heels ultimately compiled a 40-5 run out of halftime.

Seth Trimble (11 points, five assists off the bench), D’Marco Dunn (nine points in a starting role), Tyler Nickel (nine points off the bench) and Dontrez Styles (seven points, 10 rebounds off the bench) chipped in. as contributors.

Cedric Patterson was the only Johnson C. Smith player in double digits with 11 points.

UNC guard Caleb Love flashes a smile after one of his three-pointers in Friday night’s exhibition game. (Photo: Jim Hawkins / Inside Carolina)

Double-double machine

Bacot, the Preseason All-American and Preseason Player of the Year in the ACC, compiled a double-double before the first half was done. He reached halftime with 10 points and 12 rebounds, to go along with three assists and two blocked shots.

Consider it Bacot picking up where he left off in some ways, although the stats from Friday night don’t count toward North Carolina’s numbers for the approaching season. During last season’s magical run to the national championship game, Bacot became the first player in college basketball history to collect six straight double-doubles in the NCAA Tournament.

Off the bench

The freshman guard Trimble was the first sub coach Hubert Davis used off the bench. He entered for Dunn about 3½ minutes into the game, and the Tar Heels went on to use eight players during the first half. Styles (at the 13:54 mark) and Nickel (at the 10:48 mark) were the others who got in off the North Carolina bench prior to halftime.

Nickel found open looks against Johnson C. Smith’s zone defense and hit a pair of first-half 3s. His second bucket from beyond the arc, drilled from the wing, came on a cross-court pass from Bacot on the opposite baseline. That put UNC ahead 37-19.

The bouncy Trimble made a cut and hammered a big dunk off a pass from Styles in the first half.

Injury absences, lineup shuffle

With RJ Davis sidelined by a sprained right hand and not in uniform Friday night, sophomore guard Dunn joined the UNC starting lineup alongside expected starters Love, Bacot, Nance and Leaky Black. Hubert Davis rotated through eight of the nine available scholarship players in the first half, with the ninth — Shaver — joining the mix in the second half.

Next on the schedule

The preseason no. 1 team nationally and favorite to win the ACC for the first time in seven years, UNC opens its second season under Davis on Nov. 7 against visiting UNCW here at the Smith Center.

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