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UNC Film Review: How RJ Davis buried NC State

The freshman guard’s offensive burst gave UNC the breathing room it needed.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe received much-deserved praise and acknowledgement for their impressive performance on Saturday. Locked in and engaged, they punished the NC State frontcourt. It was the kind of one-two punch that’s been lacking for much of the year.

However, it was RJ Davis’ offensive burst early in the second half that required just 3:04 of actual game time that pushed UNC’s lead to 59-45 and forced Kevin Keatts to burn a timeout. By then, the damage was done. The Heels had enough of a cushion to withstand a half-hearted comeback in the final minutes. Below, we take a look at Davis’ contributions that sealed the game.

Much to my chagrin, this is the first film review we’ve done this season. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

Game Situation

RJ Davis checked in at the 16:43 mark of the second half. UNC held a 49-42 lead, and were teetering on the brink of another blown lead. Three turnovers in the first nine possessions stymied UNC’s offense. Inconsistent play has plagued the Heels and game-changing runs have been few and far between.

Leaky Black hit a short baseline jumper on Davis’ first possession, and DJ Funderburk went 1-2 from the foul line. UNC held a 51-43 lead.

Jumper #1

This is the first of Davis’ eight consecutive points and isn’t anything special. A simple 15-foot jump shot off a disrupted dribble hand-off. Bacot takes a few dribbles from the wing, and Davis traces the perimeter. Davis recovers the bobble (or deflection?) and Braxton Beverly can’t recover.

Most importantly, Cam Thomas can’t help because Kerwin Walton is in the corner. Funderburk is caught between protecting the rim or stepping to help, knowing that Bacot will exploit the opening if he does. Davis drains it. UNC leads 53-43.

Bacot Block and RJ in Transition

Funderburk answered on the other end, cutting the lead back to eight. Heels have an empty possession and State pushes the ball hoping to cut the deficit to six. Bacot intervenes to make amends for letting Funderburk beat him down the floor. Here it is from two angles:

Angle #1

Angle #2

RJ took the ensuing outlet from Sharpe and pushed the ball through four State defenders. Not always preferable, but the aggression was rewarded. He hit one of two, giving UNC a 54-45 lead.

(Note: Davis is listed at 6-0 and 160 pounds. He made it to the rim on two steps, through four defenders after picking up his dribble at the three-point line. That’s a strong, elite move. Dude is going to be a stud.)

Davis Jumper #2

After two more empty possessions apiece, Davis found himself in transition again. This time he rocks the defender, goes behind his back, and pops. Cam Hayes is frozen in place and Davis knocks in another elbow jumper. UNC leads 66-45.

(Note: This play also highlights part of UNC’s problem with tempo. Davis actually started the break from beneath State’s rim. He almost closes the distance to his teammates before he reaches half-court. As he shoots, there is not a single Tar Heel under the rim. Bacot, Walton, and Black are barely below the free throw line.

Bacot should be at the rim, and at least one of the wings should flatten out to the corner. Hard to pitch the ball ahead when the point guard is running faster than the wings)

Davis Three-Pointer

Again, nothing special. Just a scorer recognizing open space and taking advantage. Beverly goes over a high ball screen from Bacot. Funderburk sags deep in the lane to deny a drive or pass. Bacot has nowhere to go with Leaky and Sharpe both on the right side of the lane. Davis sees the opening and doesn’t hesitate.

That three gave UNC a 59-45 lead. It capped off eight straight points for Davis and forced State to use an early timeout. Thanks to Bacot’s block and Davis’ offense, the Heels turned an imminent collapse into a 14 point advantage. It proved necessary as the Wolfpack twice cut the lead to six with just over four minutes remaining.

Fortunately, Kerwin Walton and Caleb Love helped diffuse those situations.