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Heel Tough Blog: Lehigh Recap

Associated Press

Earlier this afternoon, the #19 ranked Tar Heels used a big run in the first and second halves, to put away Lehigh, 90-68, to improve to 2-0. Like Radford the other night, Lehigh is a quality mid-major, that was poised to challenge Carolina, and that is exactly what happened in the Smith Center, Lehigh held a 12-11 advantage in the first half, before a 14-3 run, allowed Carolina to take a double-digit lead, and control of the game. In the second half, Lehigh made it a 53-50 game, before a 9-0 spurt, made it 62-50, and effectively put the game away for good. Armando Bacot led the way with his third, twenty-point, twenty-rebound, double-double, as he totaled 22 points, and 20 rebounds, in his 70th career double-double as a Tar Heel. R.J. Davis also added 22 points as a starter, on 8-14 shooting, including 3-6 from behind the arc. Harrison Ingram was the only other starter in double figures, scoring 14 points, on 6-11 shooting. Carolina scored 90 points, on 46% shooting, overcoming a 29% shooting night from behind the arc. The Tar Heels were efficient from the foul line, going 23-28, and added 38 points in the paint, 14 second-chance points, and 17 points in transition, to put together another solid offensive effort.

The Mountain Hawks were picked to finish second in the Patriot League, after returning four starts, two of which, earned All-Patriot League honors last season. Entering today’s game, it was imperative that Carolina controlled Tyler Whitney-Sidney, and Keith Higgins Jr, to avoid the type of result that CJ McCollum led the program to when they upset Duke in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Carolina did exactly that, as Whitey-Sidney didn’t score in the first half, and finished with 10 points, on 4-13. Higgins Jr, scored a team best 16 points, on 7-13 shooting. Lehigh’s 13 made three-pointers kept them in the game, as they shot 39% from long range, which was better than their 37% overall field goal percentage.

Outsiders might raise an eyebrow at Carolina struggling with Radford and Lehigh at certain junctures in the game, but make no mistake, these quality mid-major programs, and weren’t going to be afraid to show up, and compete. That is exactly what happened, and every time Carolina needed to make a play, they showed the type of toughness that will carry over as the non-conference schedule heats up, and we eventually get into conference play. Here’s everything you need to know about today’s win:

  1. Armando Bacot: The best player on the floor once again was Armando Bacot, and he looked the part, scoring 22 points, and grabbing 20 rebounds. Like he did the other night, Bacot consistently got great positioning on the block and was able to operate at a high level, going 8-14 from the field, and a perfect 6-6 from the foul line. Bacot lost 10-15 pounds during the off-season and has looked more explosive in the early parts of the season, establishing himself as the focal point of the offense.

  2. Timely Offensive Runs: Every time it felt like Lehigh was going to be able to take control of the game and make it known they weren’t going away, Carolina would go on a run, and not allow Lehigh’s confidence to grow. The 14-3 run in the first half, to make it a 25-15 game, gave Carolina their first grasp of the game, as they would build an eventual 43-34 lead. Later in the second half, after the Mountain Hawks made it a 53-50 game, a 9-0 run, made it 62-50, and put the game away for good. Carolina didn’t do with excellent three-point shooting, as they shot just 29%. Instead, they let their defense fuel their offense and scored the old-fashioned way.

  3. Defense: Lehigh may have shot 39% from deep, but Carolina made them earn every bucket. Now, Lehigh’s action, helped them free up shooters, but Carolina was able to switch virtually every screen and contested many perimeter shots. Seth Trimble and Jae’Lyn Withers both made their presences felt on that end of the floor. As did Elliot Cadeau, who applied pressure in the backcourt, shortening the amount of time, Lehigh had to execute their offense. This time of the year is meant for coaches to experiment with different strategies. One of those has been a full-court press we haven’t seen unless Carolina was trying to make a comeback but has been proven effective, and will continue to be deployed as the season moves along.

  4. Rotation: After playing nine players, double-digit minutes in the opener, Hubert Davis did so again today, led by a team-high 29 minutes from R.J. Davis. Elliot Cadeau led the bench with 21 minutes, followed closely by Seth Trimble’s 19. Jalen Washington was one minute away, from making 10 players to play double-digit minutes. The bench added 24 points, making it tough to keep those guys off the court, even with the starters playing the way that they did. There is still a lot of basketball left to be played, but Carolina wasn’t rotating anywhere close to this to start last season, further backing up Davis’s decision to play with a shorter bench.

  5. Cadeau: In his second game, Cadeau scored 7 points off the bench, on 3-8 shooting, and didn’t record an assist. His speed and strength, helped him finish a play at the rim, and apply pressure in the backcourt on the defensive end. It was another step in the right direction, as the reclassified five-star freshman, continues to adapt to the college basketball game.

  6. Little Things: Not many teams are going to score 90 points when they shoot under 50% from the field and under 30% from behind the arc. Or record just 11 assists on 31 made baskets. But you can do that when you go from 23-28 from the foul line, scored 38 points in the paint, and 17 points in transition.

Up Next: Carolina is back in action on Friday night, when they host UC Riverside at 8 PM, on the ACC Network.

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