College Basketball

North Carolina Tar Heels jump on Davidson early, cruise to 98-65 victory

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige drives to the basket against Davidson’s Jack Gibbs (12) and Peyton Aldridge (23) in the second half on Sunday.
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige drives to the basket against Davidson’s Jack Gibbs (12) and Peyton Aldridge (23) in the second half on Sunday. rwillett@newsobserver.com

North Carolina’s ninth-ranked Tar Heels quickly imposed their will on Davidson on Sunday on the way to a 98-65 college basketball victory against the Wildcats at the Smith Center.

“They kept us on our heels throughout the game,” said Davidson coach Bob McKillop. “They overpowered us in transition (and) on the glass. They created chaos for our offense.”

The Tar Heels (7-1) used their distinct size advantage for a 52-31 rebounding edge, with Kennedy Meeks (West Charlotte High) grabbing 10 of them. North Carolina also harassed the Wildcats (5-1) into a poor shooting night (34.3 percent from the field, 25.8 percent from 3-point range).

“I think our defense had a little bit to do with it, but they missed shots they normally make,” said Tar Heels coach Roy Williams.

With guard Nate Britt providing the early impetus, the Tar Heels were never threatened by a Wildcats team that was off to its fastest start since the 1968-69 season. Britt’s 17 points tied a career high, 13 of them coming in the first half.

“Nate acted like a microwave for us,” said Williams.

North Carolina shot 50.7 percent from the field, with 21 assists for the 38 baskets the Tar Heels scored. Despite the fast pace at which North Carolina played, McKillop said he was never tempted to try and slow the game down. Instead, McKillop said he wanted his team to play its own free-flowing, attacking style – even if it wasn’t working on this night.

“We have a choice,” said McKillop, whose team last season put a scare into a Virginia team that plays a more deliberate style. “We can play a slow-down game, walk it up the court, pass the ball for 25 seconds and then take a shot and limit their possessions. Or we can get better at who we are. Historically, we have always worked to get better at who we are.”

The Tar Heels put the defensive clamps on Davidson point guard Jack Gibbs, who made his first 14 shots on the way to a 41-point night against Charlotte last week.

“He was an emphasis to us, no question,” said Williams. “He makes his first 14 shots (against Charlotte), you’d better emphasize him.”

Three who mattered

Nate Britt: Tar Heels guard set the tone, scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting (2-of-3 from 3-point range).

Kennedy Meeks: North Carolina forward approached a double-double (nine points, 10 rebounds).

Jack Gibbs: Wildcats guard scored 19, but needed 20 shots to do it. Also had four assists, five turnovers and didn’t record a steal.

Observations

▪  Four other Tar Heels scored in double figures -- Justin Jackson (15), Brice Johnson (13), Marcus Paige (13) and Joel Berry (11). “I liked our balance,” said Williams.

▪  In addition to the poor shooting, the game was a rarity in another way for Davidson: The usually efficient Wildcats had a negative assist-turnover ratio (13:14).

▪ North Carolina freshman forward Luke Maye (Hough High) was McKillop’s top recruiting target last year. Maye didn’t score 10 minutes Sunday, but he had three rebounds and an assist.

Worth mentioning

▪ Davidson’s Jake Belford suffered a concussion when he collided with teammate Andrew McAuliffe at the end of the first half. Belford remained on the floor several minutes during halftime while being checked out by trainers. McKillop said Belford was taken to N.C. Memorial Hospital, where he underwent a cat scan.

▪ Former Tar Heels player Jackson Simmons sat behind North Carolina’s bench Sunday. Jackson is now a graduate assistant for the Charlotte 49ers.

▪ Wildcats guard Jordan Watkins saw his first action of the season. Watkins has been troubled by a shoulder injury he suffered in the preseason.

▪ Davidson’s next three games are in the Gotham Classic: Wednesday against Eastern Washington and Saturday against former Southern Conference rival Western Carolina (both at Belk Arena); and Dec. 20 against Pittsburgh at New York’s Madison Square Garden. North Carolina is at Texas on Saturday.

They said it

“Davidson is a great team. Not as good as Maryland (an 89-81 Tar Heels victory last week), but coach Williams said this is the second best team we’ve played all year.” – North Carolina’s Justin Jackson.

“Guard him.” – Williams, on the best way to contain Gibbs.

“We came out like we didn’t belong out there. We didn’t play with the toughness and heart that has been Davidson’s program for years and years.” -- Gibbs.

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