College of Charleston students began lining up on George Street almost four hours before kick-off and began filling out the student section two hours before the game started.
“Pat Kelsey for president,” read the sign carried by an enthusiastic academic, whose colleagues booed vigorously as opposing players dressed in blue left the jogging field after pre-game warm-ups.
The atmosphere at the sold-out TD Arena – recently dubbed “The Six” by Kelsey, the Cougars’ new coach – was crazy Tuesday night, as befitting the occasion: a visit from one of basketball’s blue bloods- varsity ball, the North Carolina Tar Heels, in front of a noisy crowd of 5,203, the second largest in C of C history.
The No. 18 of North Carolina (3-0), however, absorbed all this atmosphere. Freshman coach Hubert Davis’s club dominated inside Armando Bacot 6-10 and some clutch shots until a 94-83 win with former Davis boss Roy Williams in the House.
Bacot dominated the paint with 24 points and 12 rebounds, blocking six shots and affecting many more while the Cougars shot only 36.4%. Caleb Love (21 points) and Kerwin Walton (14) responded coldly from the outside when Charleston had a late run.
The Cougars (3-1) were led by two freshmen, as Australia’s Reyne Smith sank five treys for 19 points, and forward Ben Burnham – who grew up as a Tar Heel fan at Fort Mill. – scored 17 points.
âThe atmosphere was electric and amazing,â Kelsey said. “It was as good an atmosphere as ever, and our kids played hard.”
The Tar Heels only took the lead more than three minutes into the second half, when Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek scored 3 points for a 48-46 lead with 16:50 to to play.
Bacot scored three times in the lane as UNC – in the bonus barely six minutes into the half-time – unleashed an 11-2 push for a 59-51 lead with 11:32 left to go. that the Cougars have missed eight in a row on the field.
âIt’s a mountain,â Kelsey said of Bacot. “He’s tall, skilful, has soft hands. He was difficult to handle, put a lot of pressure on us and made it difficult for our big boys.”
The Tar Heels were up eight when Bacot went to rest on the bench and the Cougars took advantage. Burnham drove for a bucket and Smith hit his fourth trey to close the lead to three at 64-61. Smith’s fifth 3-point made it 70-68 with 6:44 left.
Two free throws from Smith got the Cougars down to 72-71 with 6:12 left, and the crowd roared. But second 6-5 UNC student Walton responded with two cold-blooded treys around a Love pull-up, and the Tar Heels quickly pushed the lead to 10 at 84-74 with four minutes to play.
Judged by the crowd, the Cougars jumped early and never dragged in the first half. Smith hit two treys in the first 2:13, followed by Burnham and Fah’mir Ali from distance and Charleston led by 26-15 at the halfway point.
UNC’s length started to take its toll as the Cougars went 0-8 off the floor and 4:26 without scoring, and the Tar Heels closed the lead to 26-23 on a Manek jam.
But Dimitrius Underwood got the Cougars back on track with a quick feed at Burnham, then hit a midrange jumper just before the shot clock buzzer. A Burnham trey, who had 10 points in the first half, gave the Cougars a 35-29 lead with 3:42 left at the half, and Charleston led 42-36 at the break.
Bacot carried the Heels’ offense in the first half, scoring 16 points on 6-7 from the floor.
Former Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, sitting with former Cougars coach and good pal Bobby Cremins, was on hand to see if the Tar Heels could avenge their 2010 loss to Cremins and CofC in this building. It was the game when Cougars great Andrew Goudelock hit a 3-point 28-footer on the buzzer to force overtime in an 82-79 win.
Legendary Cougar coach John Kresse has gone 2-2 against North Carolina over the course of his career, including a 66-64 upset for the third-seeded Tar Heels in 1998. The analyst Cougars radio Danny Johnson won the match with a buzzer report.
Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Cougars had six wins against nationally ranked opponents since joining Division I, including both against North Carolina. Charleston’s last win against a ranked team was in 2012, when the Cougars knocked out No. 21 Baylor.
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