And all the Smith Center fans exhaled.
The North Carolina men’s basketball team flirted with a second-half collapse against Davidson, but the seventh-ranked Tar Heels overcame a late 9-0 run by the Wildcats to secure a 83-74 victory on Wednesday.
After entering halftime with a 42-32 edge, UNC (9-1) stretched its lead to as many as 16 points with 12 minutes, 46 seconds left. Davidson (5-3), however, slowly started chipping away.
Time after time, the Wildcats threatened, pulling to within single digits, only for the Tar Heels to answer with a basket on the other end. A pair of Stilman White free throws pushed UNC’s lead back to 12 points with less than five minutes left, appearing to put the game out of reach.
But seconds later, a 3-pointer by Jon Axel Gudmundsson ignited Davidson’s final run, and the Wildcats cut the deficit to three points with a minute, 55 seconds left.
The Tar Heels, however, secured the win at the free-throw line, going 7-for-10 at the charity stripe the rest of the way.
Three who mattered
Justin Jackson: UNC’s junior forward matched his career high with 27 points while making a career-best seven 3-pointers.
Luke Maye: A sophomore forward who was heavily recruited by Davidson, Maye scored a career-best 10 points off the Tar Heels’ bench.
Jack Gibbs: Davidson’s senior guard finished with a game-best 30 points on 9-for-20 shooting.
It’s been a lot of fun watching this basketball team at certain times this year. It was not fun tonight.
Roy Williams, UNC head coach
▪ The Tar Heels scored 21 points off 17 Davidson turnovers. The Wildcats, meanwhile, failed to convert on the turnovers they forced, getting just 12 points off 15 UNC turnovers.
▪ Early on, Davidson found success defensively by double-teaming the Tar Heels in the post. UNC ultimately exploited the defensive strategy with its length and athleticism.
▪ Needing a boost midway through the first half, the Tar Heels went on a 12-3 run with Maye, White and freshmen Tony Bradley, Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson on the floor.
▪ With Joel Berry, UNC’s second-leading scorer, sidelined because of a sprained left ankle, senior Nate Britt and sophomore Kenny Williams started at both guard positions.
▪ Peyton Aldridge, Davidson’s second-leading scorer, scored eight points on 3-for-4 shooting before committing his second foul with 10 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first half. He exited the game and didn’t return for the rest of the half. The Tar Heels outscored the Wildcats 29-19 with him off the floor.
They said it
“It’s been a lot of fun watching this basketball team at certain times this year. It was not fun tonight. It was frustrating as I can ever remember to be honest with you. But we won, made some free throws down the stretch and made some shots. But I really think they executed their stuff better than we executed our stuff on both ends of the court.” — UNC coach Roy Williams on his team’s performance.