June 24, 2024

North Carolina players celebrate a double-digit lead over Michigan State in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Robert Willett)

Coral Springs, Florida — Even though it’s not quite South Beach, North Carolina brought their skills to Coral Gables and managed to defeat Miami 75–72, returning to its winning ways.

Compared to their previous game against Clemson, where they felt more like a squad going through the motions, the Tar Heels’ enthusiasm on Saturday was a clear difference. With more vigor and effort, UNC jumped out to an early 12-point lead. But because this Carolina squad has terrible offensive spurts where it appears to stray off course, Miami was able to not only get back into the game but lead at the half. It’s a team without many outside shooters, save for R.J. Davis.

Miami swiftly increased its lead to four points to start the second half. The Tar Heels are most effective when they attack the basket and play inside-out, with Armando Bacot operating the post. Carolina then went back to their core principles. Bacot was limited to two points in the first twenty minutes. Hubert Davis has been vocal in reminding the squad that they need to use a lot of Armando Bacot as the team has been using RJ Davis more and more this season. That’s not really communicated by two Bacot points on three field goal tries in the first 20 minutes. Carolina made a determined effort to play through its big after Norchad Omier was forced to the bench due to foul trouble, and that resulted in a 22-6 run.

Seth Trimble’s upper body injury kept him out of the game for the second straight game, which I felt harmed Carolina because they were without their best perimeter defender to try to slow down Nigel Pack. The absence of Trimble has brought attention to UNC’s bench’s recent lack of output. That is something to keep an eye on as it becomes more concerning. Even though the Tar Heels are returning to Chapel Hill victorious, a one-point showing from the bench will not be easily overcome.

And on Saturday, they were mostly carried by the openers. Elliot Cadeau finished with eight assists and 19 points. With 25 points, RJ Davis strengthens his argument for ACC Player of the Year. A Bacot double-double in sizes 10 and 15. The two plays I want to make sure to highlight were on the defensive end, despite all the offensive that the Davis-Bacot combination gave UNC. One was when Pack attempted to shoot from nearly the top of the key, but RJ Davis stopped him and kept the ball from falling out of bounds beneath the hoop. The other was when Bacot stood his ground against a powerful Omier inside and blocked the shot, giving Carolina possession as Miami had a last-second opportunity to tie the game.

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