It wasn’t the season-opener Tar Heels fans were hoping for, but last night UNC beat UNC-Wilmington 69-56 to begin their campaign to Houston. It was a scrappy affair, with 42 total fouls called, and a final whistle well after 11pm.
UNCW wanted to establish a physical presence, and full-court pressed Carolina for most of the game, then swarmed double-teams on Armando Bacot whenever he had the ball in or near the paint. With Mr. Double-Double one rebound shy of a double-double thanks to foul trouble—Bacot had four fouls and only wound up playing 28 minutes, lowest of the five starters—and the Tar Heels generally eschewing the three-point shot (the Heels were 2-10 for the night), it needed a steady hand to guide them through a rocky opener.
Fortunately, that steady hand had extra time off to heal after missing the exhibition win over Johnson C. Smith. RJ Davis was hyper efficient, and looks to be a top ACC guard this year. He led the team in minutes (37) and tied for top scorer (17 points on 6-11 shooting). He only had one turnover, but made up for it with a steal and an assist.
RJ continues to run the offense well, and was clutch bringing the ball up with UNCW looking to spring a two-man half-court trap on most possessions. This tactic burned a lot of clock getting the ball up court, so it was imperative that Davis got things moving once the Heels were in their offensive sets.
His shiftiness is still a nightmare to guard, and he’s thrown in some clever wrinkles, such as this head fake to get his defender to commit to helping on a corner trap:
Got him @ariidavis_ | @UNC_Basketball pic.twitter.com/rRaGnWjika— ACC Network (@accnetwork) November 8, 2022
Hopefully the team starts to smooth things out in their next game Friday night against College of Charleston. If they do get stuck, it’s nice to know that RJ Davis can usually make something happen out of nowhere.