Love, Nance helps No. 1 North Carolina beat Gardner-Webb

CHAPEL HILL, NC (AP) — Barely a week into the season and there’s impatience for No. 1 North Carolina.

The Tar Heels can’t wait to get better and show it off.

“We’re used to it now,” Warden Caleb Love said. “We’ve only been there for three games but the mistakes we’re making at both ends of the pitch are unacceptable. We’ll fix it. It’s everyone.”

Love scored 20 points and Pete Nance added 18 points as North Carolina fended off Gardner-Webb for a 72-66 win Tuesday night.

RJ Davis scored with back-to-back possessions down the stretch, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels (3-0). Armando Bacot added 10 points.

North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said he was surprised by his team’s repeated disruptions.

“I don’t think there is a red flag in relation to our team,” he said. “I think there are some yellow flags. I think there are yellow flags in terms of our toughness. I think there are yellow flags in terms of sustainable efforts.”

Anthony Selden had 21 points, Julien Soumaoro had 17 points and Kareem Reid added 10 points for Gardner-Webb (0-3), who faced a top-ranked team for the first time.

“Proud of our guys for the fight,” said Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft. “We wanted this game to be a grind and a half-court game.”

Coach Davis said he’s proud of his tar heels, but he’s also at a loss.

“To have that freedom, to enjoy being part of this program and playing on this team and trying to be the best that we can be,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing that needs to be improved and changed.”

After falling 16 inches behind in the second half, the Runnin’ Bulldogs were 60-54 with less than four minutes to play. Nance fouled an offensive attack at the 3:38 mark.

Davis made two free throws with 1:22 left after Gardner-Webb had two possessions gone awry with a chance to cut into a 61-56 hole. Davis made a jumper on North Carolina’s next possession.

Craft said the disappointing part was an inability to make it a one-ball game in the dying minutes.

Nance, a transfer from Northwestern, is the only new addition to the starting XI this season, replacing Brady Manek – a transfer from Oklahoma.

“It’s getting better,” Nance said. “Bring everyone to the same page. Get rid of the nervousness.”

Love, who had three points at halftime, scored eight in North Carolina’s 10-0 start into the second half. He made his first five shots of the second half after going 5-1 before the break.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs barely flinched.

“We have to stick to the script,” Craft said.

Nance collected 14 of North Carolina’s first 18 points. That surpassed his total score (13) from the first two games.

North Carolina led 26-22 at halftime, despite shooting 29% from the field. Aside from Nance’s 5-to-7, the Tar Heels were 4-to-24 while Gardner-Webb held an 18-4 lead in points in the suit.

Nance hit three 3s in the first 10 minutes and helped North Carolina take a 15-8 lead as Gardner-Webb weathered a nearly five-minute drought.

BEAUTIFUL FOR NANCE

This was Nance’s first double-digit game with the Tar Heels. He reached that mark in 54 of 107 games over four seasons with Northwestern.

“It’s definitely good to see that the work is paying off and that some shots are being taken,” he said.

Coach Davis wanted to see more shots. He was upset that the Tar Heels didn’t deliver the ball in better sports for the forward in the second half when he only attempted two shots.

“If I had 16 in the first half and just two in the second half, there would be some arguments with my teammates,” Davis said.

BIG PICTURE

Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs have lost three road games, but they’ve been competitive in every one of them. They were the aggressors for most of the first half and that certainly bodes well for a side who will have seven games away before a home game in Boiling Springs.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels don’t rack up many style points but are undefeated after three home games. They have shown that they can shift into a higher gear as these games progress. They eventually overtook an opponent, but the lead was only 40-38.

NEXT

Gardner-Webb: Friday at Wofford

North Carolina: Sunday at home against James Madison

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