CHAPEL HILL, NC — Gardner-Webb used a strong defensive effort to frustrate top-ranked North Carolina, but the Tar Heels won 72-66 Tuesday night.
North Carolina (3-0) used a 13-3 run to open the second half, creating a cushion that Gardner-Webb (1-2) failed to overcome in his third away game in eight days.
Anthony Selden drove and dived his way to a game high of 21 points, Julien Soumaoro added 17 and Karem Reid scored 10 before fouling for Gardner-Webb midway through the second half.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs didn’t budge after the initial surge, slicing the lead to single digits when Soumaoro dropped a three off the left wing for a 58-50 score, 6-07. Soumaoro pressed for a loose rebound two possessions later and raced to a contested layup to make it 60-54 with 5-11 to go.
Gardner-Webb cut the lead to five points with 2:45 minutes remaining and had a chance to cut the lead to three points, but a driving layup was bordered and RJ Davis made two free throws at the other end with 1:22 to go in 63 -56 lead for the home team.
Davis batted down a 17-foot shot from the right corner after almost turning the ball over with 51.2 seconds left for a 65-56 lead and Gardner-Webb couldn’t get any closer. Caleb Love made two free throws with 37.2 seconds left after a missed three at the other end to bring the lead back to double digits.
Selden was fouled and made two free throws with 27.7 seconds left to make the score 67-58 and Soumaoro drove to a layup with 19.1 seconds left to bring the lead back to nine and blew more three with 7.1 seconds left to reduce the lead to 70-63.
Davis hit two more free throws at the other end and Selden knocked home a three on the buzzer for the final lead.
Gardner-Webb got defensive in the first half, limiting the Tar Heels to just nine field goals scored and 29.0 percent shooting overall in the first 20 minutes. North Carolina still opened a 21-12 lead with 6:46 to play on an RJ Davis jumper before the break, but Gardner-Webb responded with a 10-2 run to take the lead to 23-22 to shorten a Karem Reid Dunk at 3:13 before halftime.
North Carolina got a three-point game from Caleb Love at 1:36 to play for a 26-22 lead at the break.
Gardner-Webb shot 26 of 63 for the game (41.3 percent) and 53.3 percent for the second half (16 of 30). GWU bounced back from a 0-on-7 attempt in the first half from afar to go 7-of-13 in the second half. The ‘Dogs were almost level with the larger Tar Heels on the glass.
North Carolina received 20 points from Love, 18 from Pete Nance and 14 from Davis to take the lead. Armando Bacot added 10 points and nine boards but was limited to a 2-of-9 shot performance inside. UNC shot 23 of 60 from the floor (38.3 percent) and benefited at the free throw line with an 18 of 21 performance.
Gardner-Webb will return to action on Friday night, making the short drive to Spartanburg, SC to take on Wofford. Tipping time is set at 7 p.m.