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Heel Tough Blog: Lehigh Preview

Roanoke TImes

The Tar Heels return to the basketball court later today, as they host Lehigh, out of the Patriot League, in the second game of the season. The #19 ranked Tar Heels earned an 86-70 win over Radford to open the season on Monday, as four starters scored in double figures, while Hubert Davis played nine players, double-digit minutes. It was the first step for a group tasked with putting last year behind them and returning the program to the top of the ACC standings, and the NCAA Tournament.

Like Radford, Lehigh is another quality mid-major program, that is going to provide a nice test for Carolina, as they continue to gear up for the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Mountain Hawks, returns four starters, from last season, and were picked to second in the league, behind the three-time champion, Colgate Red Raiders. Of those four starters, two of them were All-Patriot League last season, Keith Higgins Jr (1st Team), and Tyler Whitney-Sidney (3rd). Whitney-Sidney leads the team in scoring after two games, averaging 19.0 points per game, on 50% shooting from the field. Lehigh might be 0-2, but they dropped a tight contest against Cornell in a high-scoring affair, and last at Penn State on Friday, 74-65, after being tied with them at the half. Many Big Six schools start their seasons playing mid-major programs, but unlike most schools, Carolina schedules programs that will challenge them, and that’s exactly what Lehigh will do this afternoon in the Smith Center.

You’d have to imagine that Hubert Davis will mention the Lehigh upset of Duke in the NCAA Tournament back in 2012, because Lehigh’s head coach then, will be the head coach in this game as well. But that is an underlying message, in the bigger message that Hubert Davis is trying to get across to his team, which is to be ready to play no matter the opponent. That was a big issue last season, as the Tar Heels slept-walked against mid-major competition, and in the process, developed bad habits, that carried over into the ACC season.

The Tar Heels weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination against Radford but after an off-season spent talking about new chemistry, and better team play, we got to see that translate onto the court for the first time against an opponent. The goal today will be to build off the things they did well on Monday, and show improvement in others they weren’t as sharp in. Here’s what to watch for during today’s game:

  1. Same Starting 5?: Hubert Davis said after the Radford game that he wasn’t married to the starting 5 he utilized. That 5 consisted of R.J. Davis, Cormac Ryan, Paxon Wojcik, Harrison Ingram, and Armando Bacot. After a solid debut from five-star freshman Elliot Cadeau off the bench, the noise is only going to grow to start the reclassified freshman, but don’t expect that to take place in this game. Wojcik started and played 20 minutes. Cadeau played 19 minutes off the bench. Remember it’s not always about who starts the game, but who finishes it.

  2. Cadeau’s Second Game: Speaking of Cadeau, today will mark his second game as a Tar Heel, and everyone should be excited to see how he builds off a six-point, six-assist effort in the season opener. Those six assists are the most by a freshman in a season opener since Bobby Frasor totaled seven in a win over Gardner-Webb back in 2005. If he plays well today, the pressure will continue to mount for Davis to put him in the starting lineup.

  3. Play Inside-Out: The Tar Heels scored 48 points in the paint on Monday night, in large part because they kept feeding Armando Bacot the basketball. After starting 5-5 from behind the arc, it would’ve made sense if Carolina would’ve kept bombing away from deep. Instead, they made 2 of their next 15 attempts from deep and opted to put the ball inside to their best player. Among Lehigh’s starting five, their tallest player is 6-8, again giving Carolina a decisive height advantage. With that said, Carolina should generate most of their offense, in or around the rim, and in the process, rack up more points in the paint.

  4. Contain Whitney-Sidney: Last year, Tyler Whitney-Sidney was a 3rd Team All-Patriot League, and the way he’s playing to start 2023-24, he’s on his way to being a member of the First Team. He leads the Mountain Hawks in scoring at 19.0 points and is shooting an efficient 54% from the field. Carolina will be able to throw multiple guys his way, including Seith Trimble and Jae’Lyn Withers off the bench, both are capable of taking over the game on that end of the floor. Whitney-Sidney will be looking to have his own CJ McCollum moment against a blue-blood school on Tobacco Road, Carolina needs to make sure that doesn’t happen.

  5. Improved Free Throw Shooting: Had Monday’s game been closer, or even worse, had Carolina been upset, free throw shooting would’ve been a big reason why. UNC was just 15-23 from the foul line, and that was Bacot going 5-6 from the charity stripe. Instead, Harrions Ingram was 2-5, and Cadeau was 1-3. Carolina needs to show improvement in that area starting today, that way that doesn’t linger as the season moves along.

Series History:

This is the second-ever meeting between Carolina and Lehigh. The only other meeting took place all the way back in 1941, a 62-58 win for Carolina. George Glamack also known as the “Blind Bomber” set a then school record 33 points, on his way to earning National Player of the Year honors for the second time as a Tar Heel.


North Carolina - 17th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.9 (15). Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.4 (29th).

Lehigh - 254th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 97.0 (290th). Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 104.0 (196th).

TV Info: Today’s game will start at 2 PM, and will be televised on the ACC Network.

The Four Corners Podcast:


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