CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Armando Bacot scored a career-high 24 points, tied his career-best with six blocks and added 12 rebounds as No. 18 North Carolina rallied in the second half to beat Charleston 94-83 on Tuesday night.
It was the first road game of the season for the Tar Heels and new coach Hubert Davis, and the Cougars (3-1) had them on their heels for the opening half.
But behind Bacot, North Carolina started the second half on a 23-9 run to take a 59-51 lead with 11:56 to play.
Charleston closed within 72-71 on Reyne Smith’s two foul shots with 6:12 left. But Kerwin Walton followed with a 3-pointer and Caleb Love made a jumper to extend the lead.
Smith led the Cougars with 19 points off five 3-pointers.
Love had 22 points, 18 in the second half, as North Carolina had four players in double figures to move to 3-0 for the eighth straight season.
Not that Charleston made it easy.
The Cougars hadn’t hosted a Top 25 opponent since North Carolina visited in 2010 while ranked ninth. The Tar Heels and coach Roy Williams left with an 82-79 overtime loss.
Williams, who retired this year, was in the stands this time next to the Charleston coach who beat him that time — Bobby Cremins, who also coached at Georgia Tech.
What they saw must have given them flashbacks to 11 years ago as Charleston got off to a hot start and forced the Tar Heels to battle back.
Smith hit three 3-pointers to put the Cougars up 26-15.
The Tar Heels closed within 30-27 on Bacot’s inside basket with 5:05 to play. But Charleston added the final two of its seven first-half 3s to stretch its lead to 42-36 at the break.
North Carolina tightened up its play the final 20 minutes. The Tar Heels, who came in averaging fewer than 10 turnovers per game, committed 11 in the first half but cut that to five in the second.
Reserve Brady Manek scored 17 points for UNC and Kerwin Walton had 14, also off the bench.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels were tested on the road. They’ll need to avoid similarly slow starts as they face three ranked opponents in their next four games — No. 6 Purdue, either No. 17 Tennessee or No. 5 Villanova, and No. 4 Michigan.
Charleston: The Cougars didn’t have the size to match up with Bacot down low or the speed to catch up with guards RJ Davis and Love in second half. It was Charleston’s 11th straight loss to a ranked opponent since defeating No. 21 Baylor 63-59 in 2012.
North Carolina plays at No. 6 Purdue on Saturday.
Charleston plays at Oklahoma State on Monday night.