Pete Nance had scored just 13 points over his first two games in a Tar Heel uniform heading into Tuesday's tilt with Gardner-Webb.
In a breakout performance against the Bulldogs, the Northwestern transfer tallied 16 points in the first half to aid a rather anemic offense for North Carolina, which scored just 26 points in the opening 20 minutes.
Nance recorded a season-high 18 points while connecting on three shots from beyond the arc. He finished 6-for-9 from the field and hit all three attempts from the charity stripe.
For the Tar Heel offense as a whole, the struggles were evident in their third straight home contest, as they shot just 38.3 percent from the field in the 72-66 victory.
Caleb Love poured in 17 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, assisting a more efficient North Carolina offensive attack that scored 46 points in the final frame.
In what was his second career double-double, R.J. Davis scored 14 points to go with a game-high 10 rebounds, as the Tar Heels escaped a scare from the Big South foe.
After a 27 point second half in the comeback victory on Friday night, Armando Bacot was just 2-for-9 from the field in 36 minutes.
A combined 48-point first half between the two teams highlighted what North Carolina has struggled with to begin the season: poor rebounding and subpar three-point shooting.
Even with Nance connecting on three of his four shots from three, the Tar Heels were just 4-for-13 from beyond the arc
Gardner-Webb's 23-22 advantage on the boards coupled with an 18-4 edge in fast break points made for a messy opening 20 minutes.
A 7-0 run to begin the second half stretched the Tar Heel lead before a Leaky Black jumper with 13:11 remaining gave them their biggest lead of the game at 47-31.
The Bulldogs refused to go away, using an improved performance from beyond the arc and in the paint to get within five, as a Ludovic Dufeal dunk with 2:47 remaining left North Carolina with just a 61-56 lead.
For Gardner-Webb, guard Anthony Selden scored a game-high 21 points, connecting on seven shots and shooting a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Big man Kareem Reid anchored the Bulldogs in the early going, scoring eight of his 10 points in the first half.
Off the bench, Julien Soumaoro continued his hot start to the season, amassing 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Fellow reserve Lucas Stieber was once again the helping hand on the offensive end, tallying a game-high six assists for the third time in three games.
Although the Tar Heels emerged with the rebounding advantage and in improved three-point shooting percentage with a strong second half, many questions remain for the No. 1 team in the country.
Up next, is a high-scoring James Madison team that has surpassed the century mark twice and score 95 points or more in all four games. A fast-paced contest will test Hubert Davis' squad, who look to improve and live up to the preseason hype.
Following the noon tip on Sunday, North Carolina will travel to Portland for the Phil Knight Invitational, where they will open up against the Portland Pilots on Nov. 24th.