Gameday Live Blog/Open Thread: Gardner-Webb at UNC

Brant Wilkerson-New

Good evening from the Smith Center, where after a week off, North Carolina will play host to Gardner-Webb.

The Tar Heels (2-0) are a 26-point favorite over the Runnin' Bulldogs (0-2), who were the champions of the Big South last season and hung around with Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Here are five points worth watching in tonight's game, as freshman big man Armando Bacot returns after leaving in the first half of the victory over UNC Wilmington after taking a shot to the head.

For a deeper pregame read, here's a look at how Cole Anthony's rebounding might (or might not) be affecting Carolina's fast break.

Tonight's game will be televised pn ACC Network at 9 p.m. and streaming here via Watch ESPN.

Check out Twitter for live updates, with deeper analysis and observation posted here throughout the game, and feel free to drop a comment below.

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PREGAME

Starters:

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A look at Cole Anthony's release in slow motion:

FIRST HALF 

15:46 — This looks like a 9 p.m. Friday tipoff, with the teams a combined 1/10 from the field with five turnovers. 

The Heels haven't been sharp offensively yet, but Brooks and Bacot have previewed what could be a really intriguing possibility with their big-to-big passing. Twice, Brooks has looked for Bacot on great looks. One went out of bounds, the other got tapped away as Bacot went up to shoot. Once the timing is down, that'll be a devastating part of the Carolina offense.

11:57 — This hasn't been particularly enjoyable basketball to watch. From the UNC perspective, the offense has been awful but the defense is showing some signs of life.

Coming in, UNC ranked 339th nationally in steal percentage and 344th in turnover percentage. The Heels already have three steals and a total of four forced TO tonight.

Problem is, those steals haven't resulted in many points as we're tied 9-9.

Credit to Tim Craft. His team lost a ton from last season but they're scrappy and making the Heels work.

HALF

UNCgwu

The best thing about that half is that we're done watching it. Just a complete grind in every way for both teams.

  • One positive for UNC is Bacot, who seems perfectly healthy and has been fairly dominant in his 13 minutes out there. 
  • Keeling finished the half with a couple of nice buckets, adding to a great pass he had to find Brooks for a dunk on the break earlier. Maybe a couple of positive plays will get his confidence headed in the right direction after what was a pretty rough start.
  • The Tar Heel offense is bad right now. The timing is off, it's out of sync and there appears to be far too much thinking going on. Things are clunky and slow, and that sort of thing happening against a mediocre Big South team doesn't bode well. There's plenty of time to get it straightened it out, but there's a long road ahead for the Carolina offense to get where it needs to compete for an ACC title.
  • Nine forced turnovers is a step int he right direction, but 12 points off those turnovers illustrates the issues they're having in transition and on offense as a whole.
  • Black's 3 assists and 0 turnovers are a positive, but the Heels need him more involved as a scorer. Doesn't mean much, aside from being a fun stat.

SECOND HALF 

17:09 — Keeling with a quick 5 points, 2 rebounds and the 3-pointer he hit off a screen looked really confident. Carolina desperately needs a second scorer to step up on the perimeter, and he's the top candidate to do it.

Most importantly — no turnovers.

12:21 — Foul trouble is becoming an issue for Carolina. Three apiece for Anthony, Brooks and Keeling, and the Runnin' Bulldogs are already in the bonus.

GWU creeping back in as the Heels lead 44-39.

2:43 — And we're just about done here.

Anthony's dagger started the beginning of the end, and an alley-oop from Keeling to Anthony seemingly put a nail in the coffin with UNC leading 70-57. 

Heels will escape with a win here, but still, so much to improve on.

FINAL

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