CHAPEL HILL, NC — Armando Bacot started planting his feet, sealing off defenders and calling the ball inside. His teammates complied. And that was what eventually got top-ranked North Carolina rolling offensively against the College of Charleston.
It also helped that coach Hubert Davis got the response he wanted even after a “soft” first half.
Bacot had all but one of his 28 points after halftime to help UNC get past Charleston 102-86 on Friday night. The Associated Press’s 6-foot-11 preseason All-American had just one shot attempt in a first half, which set the tone for an offensive game in which neither team consistently stringed together stops.
The Tar Heels (2-0) apparently had to beat the Cougars (1-1) after being behind at halftime and reacting to physical play. The establishment of Bacot helped both.
“He caught the ball where he wanted,” Davis said. “He passed whoever was defending him to catch the ball as close to the basket as possible. His moves were definite and strong, and he either scored or was fouled. I was very proud of him.”
Bacot went off the field 10 to 12 after the break.
“I still think my approach has to be better. I don’t think I played a good game today. I don’t know, I guess it’s something to think about and just watch movies and see what I need to work on and just get better at it,” he said.
Caleb Love added 25 points for the Tar Heels, who shot 20 of 28 (71.4%) after halftime and finished the game with 60% shooting.
Dalton Bolon scored 14 of his 16 points before halftime for Charleston, who led by eight points in the first half and 50-43 at halftime.
The Cougars shot nearly 53% in the first 20 minutes and hovered well over 50% until slacking off in the final minutes as the Tar Heels finally claimed control. Coach Pat Kelsey said his team knew “the storm was coming” but kept fighting.
“Our guys got through a couple of those runs so resilience was something exciting and something really nice to see,” he said. “Obviously the last tsunami at the end was kind of over from there.”
Charleston: The Cougars, ranked fourth by the Colonial Athletic Association, scored 85 points with nine 3-pointers in their first set to beat Chattanooga and again showed plenty of offensive power. They repeatedly beat the Tar Heels out of dribbling, including the fact that their guards had Muscle UNC’s backcourt from Love and RJ Davis in the paint. However, they ultimately lost their 12th straight game to ranked opponents.
UNC: The Tar Heels struggled through their opener against UNC Wilmington with a performance Bacot described as “rusty” and what Davis hoped was just “fear and jitters in the first game.” This one looked better from an offensive standpoint, while Davis thought the team responded better defensively after halftime. Still, the Tar Heels didn’t really make headway until the middle of the second half.
“One of the things we talked about a lot at halftime was me telling them there was nowhere to go,” Davis said. “There is no way out. there are no stairs, there is no door. You have to stay in there and keep up.”
Charleston went 6-27 against ranked teams, with the last win coming in November 2012 at Baylor. … UNC was overtaken in each of its first two games. … The Tar Heels made 27 of 38 free throws compared to 6 of 9 for the Cougars. … Charleston made 2 of 10 3-pointers after halftime. … Love had nine rebounds and six assists for UNC while Leaky Black had 15 points. … Ante Brzovic had 12 of his 15 points before halftime for the Cougars.
Charleston: The Cougars host Richmond on Monday night.
UNC: The Tar Heels host Gardner-Webb on Tuesday night.
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AP College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP – -Top25