North Carolina overpowers Furman in second half

Furman senior guard Alex Hunter/photo courtesy of Furman athletics

Furman was held to its lowest point total of the 2021-22 season, as North Carolina posted a 74-61 win Tuesday night at the Dean E. Smith Center in what was the first meeting between the two since the 1986-87 season.

With the win, the Tar Heels claimed their fifth-straight win and improved to 8-2 overall, while the Paladins fell to 7-4. It also marked the fifth-straight opponent the Tar Heels had held to 63 or fewer points. 

North Carolina finished the contest with four players finishing in double figures, with the Tar Heels posting a pair of double-double performers. Marquette transfer Dawson Garcia posted 20 points and 10 rebounds, as he posted his second-straight 20-point performance. Armando Bacot posted 14 points and finished with 12 boards to complete his double-double effort.

Garcia scored North Carolina’s first nine points of the game, finishing the contest connecting 7-of-12 shots from the field, including going 1-for-3 from three-point range and finished 5-for-6 from the free throw line. In addition to his double-figure points and rebounds totals, Garcia handed out three assists and blocked a shot. 

Bacot went an identical 7-for-12 in the contest and in addition to his team-leading 12 rebounds, he finished with two assists and a block. 

In addition to big nights from Garcia and Bacot, the Tar Heels also got 13 points off the bench from Oklahoma grad transfer Brady Manek, while sophomore guard Caleb Love rounded out the double-figure scorers with 10. 

Furman had two players finish in double figures, led by Raleigh, N.C., native Alex Hunter, who finished with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 4-for-8 from three-point range. He added three assists and two rebounds.

A week after posting the school’s first-ever triple-double, Slawson posted another all-around performance by finishing with 12 points, dishing out seven assists and ripping down six boards. The senior from Summerville, S.C., native finished the night connecting on 5-of-14 shots from the field, which included going 2-for-6 from three-point land.

Mike Bothwell was held well below his 16.4 PPG average entering the contest, finished the contest just out of the double figures scoring column, as he completed the contest with nine points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field.

North Carolina was dominant on the glass in the win, out-rebounding the Paladins 44-25 in the contest, and posted a substantial 19-0 advantage in second-chance points. The Tar Heels also finished with advantages in points in the paint (44-26), points off turnovers (9-7), bench points (15-12), while both teams finished by dishing out 18 helpers. Both teams also took exceptional care of the basketball, with Furman turning the ball over just seven times in the contest, with North Carolina committing only eight miscues. 

The Tar Heels finished the contest connecting on 50% (30-for-60) from the field, including making 31.3% (5-for-16) of its three-point field goals. North Carolina finished 64.3% from the charity stripe, connecting on 9-of-14 shots. 

Furman, meanwhile, finished the contest by shooting 40.0% (24-of-60) from the field, and shot it at a 30.3% (10-of-33) from three-point range in the contest. Furman went to the line just three times, knocking down all three charity shots. 

How It Happened:

In what was the first meeting between the two teams in 35 years, Furman and North Carolina looked like they were making up for lost time in the half of play, with both teams executing at a high level offensively, and in the second half, North Carolina’s defense, size and physical edge were big factors in the second half, as North Carolina outscored the Paladins 35-22 in the second frame, as the Tar Heels broke open a game and led by as many as 22 points (74-52) with 2:57 remaining, as the seven-time national champions held Furman to its lowest point total in a half (22 pts) so far this season.

The Tar Heels ended up holding the Paladins to just 28.1% (9-of-32) shooting from the field in the second half alone. North Carolina would break open the game in the second half, which would ultimately culminate in its largest lead of the night with 2:57 left. In a little over a six-minute span in the second half, the Tar Heels went on an 11-0 run to widen a 63-52 lead into a 74-52 disparity. 

The Tar Heels saw the run ignited by a layup from Brady Manek with 8:33 remaining, answering a Joe Anderson three-pointer on the the other end for the Paladins, as the Tar Heels opened up a 13-point, 65-52, lead following the bucket from the Oklahoma transfer.

Caleb Love’s three-pointer a little under three minutes left gave North Carolina its largest advantage of the night, at 74-52, with just under three minutes left. Furman’s scoring drought, which covered a 6:39 span in the second half, was finally snapped when Alex Williams connected on a three-pointer with 2:39 remaining, bringing the Paladins back to within 19.

It would spark a 9-0 run, which Furman would end the game on to set the final score. A pair of Bothwell layups and another by James Repass accounted for Furman’s final six points of the night, and set the final margin at 13 points, as the Paladins went down valiantly in defeat, 74-61.

The opening half of play was a thrilling half of basketball, however, it didn’t appear initially it was going to turn out to be such.

North Carolina got out of gates quickly against Furman, opening up a 7-0 lead in the first 2:07 of the game to force an early timeout by the Paladins. 

A Jalen Slawson three-pointer with 17:54 left in the opening half finally got the Paladins off to a start in one of the most hallowed facilities in college basketball. Garcia finished his flurry to start the game, finishing off his nine-point explosion to start the contest with a pair of free throws on the other end to give North Carolina a 9-3 lead following a foul by Garrett Hien in the act of shooting.  

North Carolina led by as many eight points three times in the first half, with the last of those eight-point leads coming at 30-22 following a Garcia layup with 6:44 remaining in the opening frame. Furman responded each time, however.

With Furman trailing 19-12 with just under 14 minutes remaining in the opening half of play, the Paladins got five-straight points on an Alex Hunter three and a Marcus Foster layup to cut North Carolina’s lead to 19-17 with 13:07 to play in the half. 

North Carolina would threaten to break the game open one final time before the half, however, as Garcia’s layup with 6:44 remaining in the opening frame gave the Tar Heels a 30-22 lead. 

Furman would then score six-straight following a three-pointer to make it a 30-25 contest, and following a Garcia missed three-pointer, Hunter took a pass from Slawson cutting down the lane for a layup and was fouled in the process by RJ Davis. Hunter capped off the three-point play with a free throw at the 6:01 mark of the opening half, bringing the Paladins back to within two, at 30-28. 

Furman would get within a point three times in the opening half of play before assuming its first lead of the game, at 36-34, with 3:26 remaining following his fourth triple from Hunter. 

After Garcia’s foul shot got the Tar Heels within one, at 36-35, Hunter missed his only three-point attempt of the opening half on the other end, and Leaky Black responded with a dunk on a run-out on the other end to make it a 37-36 North Carolina lead with 2:09 remaining in the opening half.

A Bothwell three-pointer on the other end helped Furman regain a 39-37 lead with 1:51 left, and North Carolina would pull even on two more Garcia foul shots with 1:26 remaining following a foul by Furman’s JP Pegues, as the two teams went to the halftime locker room tied, 39-39.

The Paladins got 27 of their 39 points in the opening half from Slawson and Hunter. Hunter posted 17 of his game-high 21 points on an impressive 6-of-8 shooting performance from the field, which included a 4-for-5 effort from three. It was Hunter’s fifth game this season in which he has scored 20 or more points. 

His four three-pointers in the contest now give the senior 43 for the season, which ranks tied for second nationally along with Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Smith. VMI’s Kamdyn Curfman leads the nation with 47 trifectas. 

Up Next:

Furman returns to the hardwood Friday night when it faces its final power six conference test, taking on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a game slated for a 7 p.m. EST in a game televised nationally by the SEC Network. 

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