CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Caleb Love scored 20 points and Pete Nance added 18 points as No. 1 North Carolina fended off Gardner-Webb for a 72-66 victory Tuesday night.
RJ Davis scored on consecutive possessions down the stretch and finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels (3-0). Armando Bacot added 10 points.
Anthony Selden scored 21 points, Julien Soumaoro had 17 points and Kareem Reid added 10 points for Gardner-Webb (0-3), which faced a top-ranked team for the first time.
After trailing by 16 in the second half, the Runnin’ Bulldogs were within 60-54 with less than four minutes to play. Nance fouled out on an offensive charge at the 3:38 mark.
Davis made two free throws with 1:22 left after Gardner-Webb had two possessions go awry with a chance to cut into a 61-56 hole. Davis made a jumper on North Carolina’s next possession
Nance, a transfer from Northwestern, is the only newcomer in this season’s starting five, replacing Brady Manek – a transfer from Oklahoma.
Love, who had three points at the half, scored eight points during North Carolina’s 10-0 start to the second half. He made his first five shots of the second half after going 1-for-5 before the break.
Nance racked up 14 of North Carolina’s first 18 points. That exceeded his total points (13) from the first two games.
North Carolina led 26-22 at halftime despite shooting 29% from the field. Aside from Nance’s 5-for-7, the Tar Heels were 4-for-24 while Gardner-Webb held an 18-4 edge in points in the paint.
Nance made three 3s in the first 10 minutes helping North Carolina go up 15-8 as Gardner-Webb endured a scoring drought of nearly five minutes.
Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs have lost three road games, but they’ve been competitive in each of them. They were the aggressors for much of the first half and that’s bound to be a good sign for a team that will have seven games away from home before a home game in Boiling Springs.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels aren’t picking up many style points, but they are unbeaten after three home games. They’ve shown the ability to shift into a higher gear as these games have unfolded. They finally outrebounded an opponent, but the margin was only 40-38.
Gardner-Webb: Friday at Wofford
North Carolina: Sunday at home vs. James Madison.