Despite an ugly first half against Florida State, UNC made a monster comeback to come away with a 78-70 win. RJ Davis had another incredible game, finishing his afternoon with 27 points, three rebounds, and five assists. Armando Bacot also had a sizable contribution with his 13 points and 13 rebounds, recording yet another double-double.
If you have been keeping up with how games have gone for the Tar Heels recently, you may have noticed there there’s been an opposing player that has scored 30+ points in games against Villanova, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Thankfully that wasn’t the case yesterday, but the Heels still had their hands full dealing with the Seminoles’ hot shooting from the perimeter in the first half. Thankfully they came back down to Earth a little bit in the second half, and they also sent the Heels to the free throw line an impressive 25 times during that same timeframe. It was tough, it was ugly, and at times it looked like they were doomed, but the Heels showed a ton of resilience to come out on top.
Let’s dive into three things we learned from UNC’s first ACC win of the 2023-24 season.
The Seminoles’ perimeter defense is legit
Sometimes we have to give credit where credit is due, and in this case Florida State deserves recognition for how impressive their perimeter defense was against the Tar Heels. While they have been a pretty good team from deep so far this season, UNC shot an abysmal 23% from three-point land. RJ Davis was responsible for three of their five makes, and the other two came from Cormac Ryan. Harrison Ingram, who prior to yesterday’s game has been incredible from the perimeter, finished his night missing all four of his attempts.
Had it not been for the outrageous amounts of fouls in the second half, Florida State probably could’ve taken down the Heels due to how well they defended the arc. UNC was a little too determined to make three-point shots happen, and it started to feel like they were just willingly turning the ball over every time they shot it. I don’t know enough about Leonard Hamilton’s squad to figure out where they could land in the ACC, but I do know that they are going to create a lot of problems for every team in the league with what they were able to accomplish against some of the better shooters in the conference.
Seth Trimble has proven that Hubert Davis can develop players
For those that spend enough time on Twitter, I’m sure you see a lot of hemming and hawing about how Hubert Davis doesn’t know how to develop players. It’s been a crazy conversation to have considering the fact that he is only in his third season, but we do officially have a player that can be used as a measuring stick for how well Davis can actually develop, and his name is Seth Trimble.
Now in his sophomore year, Trimble looks like a completely different player than he did last season. He’s always been a good defender, but it feels like this year that has been turned up to a whole other level. He also is shooting the ball a lot more, and he has been extremely efficient in doing so — right now he is averaging 52% from the field, and 60% from three-point territory. His stat sheet wasn’t anything crazy from the win over Florida State, but he had a sizable role in getting the Heels back in the game in the second half.
So yes, Hubert Davis does know how to develop players. We could split hairs and say that it has more to do with Marcus Paige being on the staff, but ultimately we are watching a player blossom under Davis’ watch. It wouldn't shock me if we see him earn more and more minutes in the coming weeks.
The next three games will tell us a lot about this team
Now that the first eight games are in the rearview mirror, the Heels will begin a three-game stretch Tuesday that will be the most difficult stretch that they have to deal with all season. The team will travel to Madison Square Garden to face off against #4 UConn, and a week later they will take on #12 Kentucky in Atlanta in the CBS Sports Classic. Finally, they will travel to Charlotte to face off against #20 Oklahoma as part of the Jordan Brand Classic.
We can confirm that rankings for two of these teams should drop after this crazy week of college basketball, but it doesn’t dilute the fact that winning against the Huskies and the Wildcats would do wonders for UNC’s NCAA Tournament resume. If the Heels could win at least one of the first two games and take down the Sooners, I would consider this stretch to be a success. College basketball has been a roller coaster so far this season, and it’s hard to be too judgmental when a ranked team loses to another ranked team. UNC could very well win all three games, but if they lost one or two of these, it will be hard to see it as the end of the world. Maybe that’s the part of me that is still recovering from last year talking, or maybe it’s the part of me talking that just saw Kentucky and Duke lose to UNCW and Georgia Tech respectively.
UNC has a chance to make a huge statement this Tuesday against UConn, and something tells me that they are more than ready for the challenge. Let’s just hope things work out in their favor not only in this game, but in the other two neutral court games that follow. Hope you have your blood pressure medicine handy, because it’s going to be an intense few weeks.