It looks like the North Carolina team that everyone expected this season has decided to come to play with Marcus Paige back in the fold.
The Tar Heels went wire-to-wire on Davidson, taking the lead on their first possession and never looking back, winning the game 98-65. Nate Britt led the way with 17 points, with Justin Jackson scoring 15 and Paige and Brice Johnson each getting 13. It was a very well-balanced effort on the offensive end.
But that wasn’t the most impressive part of this game. Davidson came into this one undefeated on the back of an offense that averaged 1.19 points per possession this season. North Carolina dominated the Wildcats on that end of the floor from start to finish, allowing them to only put up .802 points per possession. That’s Davidson’s lowest total since a January 2, 2013 tilt with Duke, back when Bob McKillop’s group was still in the SoCon.
The Tar Heels’ length did significant damage to the Wildcats, forcing 14 turnovers by the team that finished second in the country last season in turnover percentage, and only allowing them to shoot 34 percent from the field. Everywhere the Wildcats turned, there was a limb in the way. Star guard Jack Gibbs, who came into the game averaging 26 points, was held to 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting with five turnovers. It’s hard to look at this one anything other than a defensive masterpiece from the Tar Heels.
This win pushes the Tar Heels to 7-1 on the year, and should move them up the polls when they’re relased on Monday. But I’m not sure most have noticed exactly what’s happened in Chapel Hill so far this year. Simply put, North Carolina has already built one of the better resumes in the country despite the loss to Northern Iowa back on November 21. Roy Williams’ group now owns an elite win over a top-10 team in Maryland, plus five top-100 wins according to KenPom, which is more than any other team in America. Personally, I’d probably put North Carolina third when the new poll is released on Monday behind Michigan State and Kansas.
But realistically, exact placement in the polls now isn’t super important. The Tar Heels were No. 1 in the country coming into the year for a reason, and with Paige back in the fold it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be far from the top of the rankings any time soon.