Lucas: For starters – University of North Carolina Athletics

Written by Adam LucasPortland – The numbers aren’t pretty. In Thursday’s 89-81 win over Portland, the Pilots bench edged out Carolina by a score of 25-3.

This is the overwhelming situation. The deeper numbers are equally disturbing.

The Portland reserves, in about 63 minutes of play, hit nine of 17 shots from the field, while DiMarco Dan The three-pointer before halftime was UNC’s only bench basket in six attempts (in about 26 minutes).

Portland bench: eight rebounds. Carolina Bench: One more Wanda bounce.

Portland bench: Six trips to the free throw line (making five). Carolina bench: Zero trips to the free throw line.

Portland Seat: Five steals. Carolina Seat: No stealing.

Now imagine you are Hubert Davis. Everyone wants you to play your reserves more. You look at a stat sheet that shows your starters outscored Portland’s points, 86-56. If this is the actual end result, a 30-point blowout on Thanksgiving, everyone will be talking about how the Tar Heels beat the Flyers.

Instead, the story from Portland immediately became a less than stellar performance from the top-ranked team in the country. “Are you surprised the match came this close?” Asked on national television after 20 minutes of basketball, his team had a two-point lead at halftime.

ESPN’s bottom line now reads, “(1) North Carolina holds up tough test from Portland,” and you can almost hear the entire network tsk-tsking.

This is just life in Chapel Hill. Last year’s team enjoyed two of the only months in program history when the Tar Heels sneaked up on anyone. Those days are long gone, because when you’re on popular Netflix shows and see your face on T-shirts and doing commercials, the higher expectations are also part of the reward.

Many of the players who reap these off-field rewards play at star level on the field. Caleb Love Carolina’s primary offense was for part of the game, and finished with 23 points on effective 10-for-15 shooting. Nance’s house He tied for career highs with 28 points and hit five three-pointers. Armando Pacote He grabbed nine rebounds in the second half, six of them offensive, which means he rebounded himself nearly half of the shots that Carolina missed (13) in the last 20 minutes.

But college basketball in the transfer gate era means that almost every team has experienced and capable players on the bench, often complementing more experienced and capable starters (Portland players have played for eight other colleges and average about 23 years of age).

With the Iron Five gaining momentum last season, Davis spent most of the season chanting one mantra to his reserves: “I can promise you’ll get a chance. I can’t promise you when that chance will come.”

He was right. Dontrez Styles He was important in Carolina’s victory over Baylor in the NCAA Tournament, the same game when Justin McCoy Major minutes are played. Buff Johnson He made positive contributions throughout the postseason.

Now, some of those players – along with some fresh faces – are trying to carve out a spot in a rotation that’s steadfast at the top again but very fluid in the second five. All five of Carolina’s starters had positive/minus numbers against the Flyers, while all five of the reserves who played had negative numbers. That eventually led to three starters—Nance’s houseAnd the leaky black And the Caleb Love—playing the entire second half, with a combined total of less than six minutes. Everyone has shown in that second five at some point this season that they are fully capable of providing important minutes. But as highlighted on Thursday, they haven’t shown it consistently, game by game. Some of them are freshmen and unpredictability is expected. But there are also areas where even young players can be constants.

It doesn’t have to appear in the stats sheet. But Davis desperately needs someone in the second set to contribute something — dunk on the floor, play some defense, get a big chest — make a meaningful contribution. Starting Friday, when the Tar Heels play Iowa State or club Villanova, the competition will be too deep and too talented to count on five players in the next four and a half months.

“I especially want the new players to understand what they have to do in terms of strength and hard work to put themselves in a position to succeed on the ground,” the manager said after the win.

They will gain much more appreciation starting tomorrow. And we’ll know more about Tar Heels.

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