Facing Florida State in Tallahassee was always destined to be one of the tougher road games for the Tar Heels, and the Seminoles did not disappoint. They were fiery, they made the Heels turn the ball over 17 times, and they shot at 58% from three-point range in the first half. Thankfully the Tar Heels maintained their poise for 40 minutes to win their 10th game in a row and improve their record to 9-0 in ACC play.
Some quick facts: four of UNC’s five starters hit double-figures in this one, and RJ Davis led the team in scoring (again) with 24 points, 14 of which were scored in the second half. The Heels managed to out-rebound the Seminoles by nine, but Leonard Hamilton’s bench scored 35 bench points to UNC’s seven. Finally, FSU scored 26 points off of UNC’s 17 turnovers, which played a huge role in what happened in the first half.
There were good moments, there were bad moments, but ultimately the Tar Heels were able to come out on top yet again. With that said, let’s discuss the three things we learned from yesterday’s game.
Elliot Cadeau is becoming more and more aggressive
Hubert Davis has mentioned on a few occasions that he would like to see Elliot Cadeau be more aggressive on offense, and over the last couple of games he has delivered. Yesterday he shot the ball 12 times against the Seminoles and finished the game with 16 points, two rebounds, and six assists. While he only shot 33.3% from the field for the afternoon, Cadeau was taking any and everything Florida State gave him and tried to make the correct plays. Whenever he got a mismatch on ball screens, he attacked the rim. Whenever he saw someone who could make a play, he made sure the ball reached their hands. It feels like his confidence is at an all-time high, which is good sign when looking forward to the challenges ahead.
It’s also worth noting that Cadeau’s newfound aggression has translated over to his defensive game as well. There were times when he ended up in a bad matchup and lost, but for the most part we’ve seen Cadeau not giving opponents much breathing room, intercepting passing lanes when given the opportunity, and overall just looking more confident in what he is doing. Hubert Davis has to be pleased with what he is seeing from his freshman point guard, and hopefully we get to see him score in double figures for the third time in a row against Georgia Tech.
The Seminole’s fire ultimately burned them
Florida State was a tough team to deal with when the Tar Heels faced them back in December, but ultimately their inability to guard without fouling doomed them down the stretch. Things played out in a similar manner yesterday — the Seminoles sent UNC to the line to shoot 24 free throws, which is somehow less than the 31 free throws the Heels shot in the first game. Amazingly it could’ve been a lot worse, because there were a number of fouls that the refs didn’t feel like calling on the Seminoles, and ultimately players like De’Ante Green got super fired up because of them. Alas, the ball doesn’t lie, and the Heels were able to earn the regular season sweep.
While the Seminoles are no stranger to sending their opponents to the free throw line regularly during games, it felt like they were especially fired up yesterday to take down a top three team in hopes of keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. There was a lot of jawing happening during play stoppages in hopes of getting in Carolina’s heads, but ultimately none of that worked. Had they found a way to not foul as much, they would’ve had a very good chance of coming away with the biggest upset in the ACC this season. They shot better than any team has shot against the Tar Heels in 40 minutes of action since UNC’s win over Louisville — another game where the opposing team fouled too much to keep their heads above water. Let this be a lesson to the Heels’ remaining ACC opponents: being overly aggressive will burn you more often than it will help you.
RJ Davis loves when the difficulty ramps up
The Tar Heels have had the luxury of witnessing RJ Davis score 20+ points in a game and viewing it as just another day in the office, but how he’s been scoring has gotten increasingly silly. I’ve noticed over the last few games that he has been making silly circus shots at the rim, he’s taking people off of the dribble from the perimeter, and has made some impressive shots from NBA range. It’s also worth noting that after a disappointing first half for the Tar Heels, Davis scored a team-high 14 points in the second half to ultimately put them on top.
Everything that I just described is difficult for the average player to pull off, but it was a particular play in the second half that made me just shake my head and laugh. Davis attempted to drive the ball against a Florida State defender, couldn’t get around him, and instead of passing he decided to spin around the defender and lay it up for two. Is it the most unique shot we’ve ever seen? Of course not. Is it a shot that only RJ Davis would make when Carolina desperately needs it? Absolutely. He has been as clutch of a player as we’ve seen in a Carolina blue uniform in a long time, and teams are going to have a very hard time pulling ahead of the Heels when Davis is “on.” It’s been said a lot over the last couple of weeks, but I think it’s safe to say that we know who the ACC Player of the Year is, and it’s not even February yet.