Challenges have come early for No. 1 North Carolina.
Those have developed from opponents and from coach Hubert Davis.
The idea for the Tar Heels is to not accept anything that isn’t up to their expected standards.
They’ll play their third straight home game to open the season when Gardner-Webb visits Tuesday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.
So far, the Tar Heels (2-0) were engaged in a tight game late in the first half against UNC Wilmington and trailed at halftime against College of Charleston. There was no time for Davis to sit by idly as he called his team “soft” during parts of the first two games.
“I challenged all of them,” Davis said.
The Tar Heels, in general, have been disturbed by a few trends. Letting opponents hang around isn’t ideal.
“We can’t let that happen because you never know what can happen,” forward Armando Bacot said.
Bacot is a preseason All-American, but he had only one shot in the first half Friday night versus College of Charleston.
“I’ve been here four years and I should be able to dominate,” Bacot said. “It’s no time for any of those hiccups. We’ll figure it out.”
A surprising statistic for both of North Carolina’s games regarded rebounding. The Tar Heels were outrebounded in each game.
“That’s something that we pride ourselves on,” Davis said. “That’s something that needs to change and will change.”
North Carolina reached the national championship game last spring. But what might have been forgotten is that the Tar Heels struggled at times early in Davis’ first year as coach.
Now, they’re wearing the No. 1 label from the beginning.
“A little bit of the burden of the expectations,” Davis said. “I tried to get them to understand that those expectations are noise that means nothing. … Let’s see how good we can become and at the end of the day and let’s live with the results.”
Still, North Carolina’s 60.3 shooting percentage from the field against College of Charleston was its highest mark since Davis has been in charge. Bacot is averaging 22 points per game and guard Caleb Love has scored 21 per game.
Gardner-Webb (0-2) has lost at Colorado State and at Stephen F. Austin to begin the 10th season under coach Tim Craft.
North Carolina is the only team from a Power 5 conference on the schedule for the Runnin’ Bulldogs. A year ago, Gardner-Webb knocked off Georgia, so playing big-name opponents isn’t a rarity.
“Challenge our team and present some great opportunities for us to grow and get better,” Craft said.
Despite losses to begin the season, the Runnin’ Bulldogs try to view the big picture. There are eight returning players and five transfers on Gardner-Webb’s roster.
“Hopefully, we take things a step farther than we did last year,” Craft said. “It’s a daily process that more than anything.”
North Carolina is 5-0 all-time versus Gardner-Webb, with all the games contested at the Smith Center.
Among Gardner-Webb’s first five games, this will be the only outing in its home state.
–Field Level Media