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Heel Tough Blog: Florida State Recap

Updated: Dec 3, 2023


Over the years, Carolina Basketball made a name for itself, using big second-half runs, to win games, they didn’t have any business winning. It was a staple under Coach Smith, that carried over to Coach Williams, and it may have finally made its way to Coach Davis, after today’s win over Florida State. The 78-70 final score wouldn’t make you think that Carolina played a subpar first half, or trailed by as many as 14 in the second half, but that is exactly what happened. The Tar Heels shot just 18% from behind the three-point line in the second, as they trailed 35-29 at the half. In the second half, Florida State built a 45-31 lead, before Carolina would eventually go on a 22-0 run, to build a double-digit lead of their own, on their way to the first ACC win of the season. R.J. Davis continued his stellar play to start the season, scoring a game-high 27 points, on 8-17 shooting. The other starters in double figures included Harrison Ingram, who overcame a 3-11 night from the floor, to score 11 points. And Armando Bacot recorded his 72nd double-double as a Tar Heel, as he totaled 13 points and 13 rebounds.

For the game, Carolina shot just 42%, and 23% from behind the three-point line, but like they have so many times early in the season, they lived at the foul, where they went 25-31. On the flip side, Carolina’s defense fueled the comeback, after Florida State started the game, shooting 10-19 from the perimeter, they finished 12-28, which was still 43%, but once Florida State went cold from the outside, their offense had no answers in the halfcourt. Hubert Davis also opted to full-court press exclusively after the under-12 timeout, which forced 12 Florida State turnovers, which led to 18 points for Carolina.

Cormac Ryan made his return to the starting lineup today, as he joined Davis, Cadeau, Ingram, and Bacot in the starting lineup. Hubert Davis has always dreamed of playing with three guards on the floor at the same time, and it appears that the program has reached that point, in his third season. There’s no denying that is the best offensive group that Carolina has to offer, but they will need to find answers defensively if they are to be trusted to play substantial minutes moving forward.

Carolina is now 57-14 in ACC openers, including 62-9 in their ACC home openers, and while this wasn’t as easy a win as expected entering the game, it was another step in the right direction, for a team that is hungry to put last year’s failures behind them. Here’s what to take away from today’s comeback win over Florida State:

  1. Starting 5: After seeing different lineups since the Battle 4 Atlantis, Hubert Davis has found his starting five, in the form of R.J. Davis, Elliot Cadeau, Cormac Ryan, Harrison Ingram, and Armando Bacot. It was believed that by the time the Tar Heels started ACC play, this would be the starting group, and that is technically correct, with today being the ACC opener. The starters combined to score 65 of the 78 points, and are the best five on the offensive end of the floor. Their improvement defensively will ultimately determine the ceiling of the team this year.

  2. R.J. Davis: Davis led Carolina in scoring for the fourth straight game, the first time he’s done so. He’s also scored at least 27 points in three straight games, as he’s established himself as the leading scorer on the team. Davis was always going to be the player who benefited the most from Caleb Love’s decision to transfer, and that has certainly been proven true. In addition to his 27 points, he also handed out 5 assists and grabbed 3 rebounds, to put together one of the most complete performances of his Tar Heel career.

  3. Defensive Struggles Continue: It looked like it was going to be another one of those games defensively for Carolina, after Florida State shot 50% from behind the arc in the first half, and was 10-19 at one point. Jamir Watkins was sensational in the first half, scoring 13 points on 5-8 shooting. After a strong start to the season, Jae’Lyn Withers continues to struggle to defend on the perimeter, and his lack of hustle limited his minutes to just 7 in today’s game. After making changes to the way they defend ball screens, it appears that Carolina’s defense is still a work in progress.

  4. Full Court Press: Down 45-31, Hubert Davis had to try something to try and turn the game around, and he utilized a full-court press, something we’ve seen at times this season. As you’ve seen over the years, the press can take a team out of their rhythm, and that is exactly what happened to the Seminoles. Florida State turned it over 5 times in the second half, which led to 6 points for Carolina, and even if Carolina didn’t score initially, it led to trips to the foul line, where Carolina went 25-31.

  5. Rotation: It may have been the fact that Carolina was down double-digit in the second half, but Hubert Davis cut back his bench minutes significantly today. Only Seth Trimble (14), played double-digit minutes off the bench, with Jalen Washington and Jae’Lyn Withers both playing 7. Davis, Bacot, and Ingram all played 18 minutes or more in the second half, and every starter played at least 15 second-half minutes.

  6. Little Things: The Tar Heels continue to do the “little things” really well, as they shot 25-31 at the foul line, outscored Florida State 34-26 in the paint, scored 16 fast break points scored 18 points off of turnovers. It’s hard to lose games when you excel in those categories, and it helps overcome a rather poor shooting day.

Up Next: Carolina returns to its non-conference schedule on Tuesday night, when they face off against the defending national champions, the UConn Huskies, in the Jimmy V Classic, at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. The game is set to tip at 9 PM on ESPN.

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