CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)Hubert Davis said he wanted to put his full attention on his team during a changing of the guard for North Carolina basketball.
He mostly liked what he saw from the Tar Heels in his coaching debut.
Caleb Love scored 22 points and No. 19 North Carolina led the whole way, beating Loyola of Maryland 83-67 on Tuesday night.
”My concentration and focus was on the team,” Davis said.
Davis, a former North Carolina player, replaced the retired Roy Williams in April after spending seven seasons on Williams’ staff, and he acknowledged the attention he was getting as he takes over the storied program.
”We definitely knew in the back of our minds,” guard Kerwin Walton said. ”This is going to be a new era. It’s his era.”
Said Love: ”I’m happy for him and I’m happy for this team that we got the win.”
Williams watched from a front-row seat near the tunnel where the Tar Heels run onto the court.
”It is a big deal. It’s emotional and it’s a change,” Davis said. ”Me being in this role is different. I understand the impact of me being in this position.”
The Tar Heels were motivated to come through for their new coach.
”It was really intense. He was fired up, super excited,” Walton said. ”I think that when he got his first win, it really got us going. I think that’s the first stepping stone for this year and also his career as head coach.”
Brady Manek, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, poured in 20 points for the Tar Heels, who scored the game’s first nine points. Dawson Garcia, a transfer from Marquette, added 12 points and Walton scored 11 points.
Jaylin Andrews scored 17 points to lead Loyola. Cam Spencer had 15 points and Kenneth Jones scored 11 for the Greyhounds.
”We started cutting the lead after that rough start,” Loyola coach Tavaras Hardy said. ”I was happy with the way we played after a rough start.”
The Tar Heels led 45-31 at halftime, shooting 53.6% from the field.
The lead grew to 72-51 when RJ Davis and Garcia connected on consecutive 3-pointers.
The result was sure to please Williams. The Tar Heels were aware of his presence.
”It was kind of crazy when you think about it,” Walton said. ”Definitely seeing him over there. Just knowing that he loves the program and he’s cheering us on.”
Manek’s arrival gives the Tar Heels a new dimension as an inside-outside threat. He scored the game’s first points on a 3-pointer.
”It’s pretty special. I wanted to come to Carolina and produce and help the team,” Manek said. ”It’s always good to get the first-game jitters out of the way. We have a lot more to go.”
North Carolina is 100-12 in season openers, winning its first game of a season for the 17th consecutive year.
Loyola: The Greyhounds have lost their opener in all four seasons under Hardy. Last year, the team played a Patriot League-only schedule, so this was the first step out of conference since a Dec. 29, 2019 loss at Virginia Commonwealth.
”It’s a great experience,” Hardy said of playing in Chapel Hill. ”But at the same time our guys had high expectations for themselves.”
North Carolina: Davis has said he wanted the Tar Heels to build off good defensive performances and there was a mixture of results on that front. Loyola was held to 43.2% shooting from the field. North Carolina forced only 12 turnovers, six in each half.
Loyola: Faces South Carolina State on Friday in Charleston, South Carolina, as part of Rising Coaches Classic.
North Carolina: Home Friday night against Brown.
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