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Heel Tough Blog: Radford Recap


Chuck Burton - AP

Behind a dominant performance from Armando Bacot, Carolina earned their first win of the 2023-24 season, taking down Radford 86-70 in the Smith Center. The pesky Highlanders made Carolina earn their first win of the season, as they only trailed 46-41 at the half, after leading for most of the first half. The Tar Heels utilized a 5-0 run to take the lead into the locker room, and ultimately never looked back. Bacot was the best player on the floor, scoring a career-high 25 points, on 10-16 shooting. He was 5-6 from the line to complete a very solid first performance of the season. Furthermore, he grabbed 13 rebounds, extending his school record of double-doubles to 69. Three other starters scored in double figures, including R.J. Davis (13), Cormac Ryan (13), and Harrison Ingram (12), as Carolina’s new-look squad looked very comfortable on the offensive end of the floor.


The off-season was spent enforcing better shot selection, and you saw that on display tonight, as Carolina shot 52% from the field, including going 7-20 from behind the arc. Despite giving up 41 first-half points, Carolina’s defense tightened up in the second half, as the Highlanders scored just 29 points and ended up shooting 42% from the field, and 24% from behind the arc. Carolina wasn’t able to dominate the glass, winning the rebounding battle 37-34, and only outrebounding them on the offensive glass 12-11. Turnovers kept Radford in the game, as Carolina turned it over 11 times, leading to 11 points for the visitors.


Not only did Carolina enforce a better emphasis on shot selection this summer, but Hubert Davis was also tasked with developing a legitimate ACC rotation, and tonight was a step in the right direction. Davis was able to play 9 different Tar Heels’ double-digit minutes, with Bacot playing a game-high 29 minutes. Elliot Cadeau led all players off the bench in minutes with 19 and showed the type of upside that could have him competing for a starting role later in the season.


Radford was a pesky squad last season and that was on display tonight, giving Carolina a good first challenge of the new season. While the Tar Heels looked good in many different areas, there’s a lot to work on before Sunday’s game against Lehigh, which is music to Hubert Davis’s ears. Here’s what to take away from the season-opening win:

  1. Better Offense: Carolina’s offense was noticeably more efficient tonight than it was at any point last season, and it was easy to see why. Carolina’s ball movement was crisper, the spacing was better, and the shot selection resembled a veteran team like Carolina's. Of the 32 made baskets, 18 were assisted on. Carolina scored 10 points in transition as well, making the game easier on themselves on that end of the floor. Four starters made at least one three-pointer, as Carolina does appear to be a much-improved perimeter shooting team. With the roster finally built the way Hubert Davis wanted it, they played offense the way he wanted, and the result followed.

  2. Bacot: The constant of the Carolina Basketball program has been Armando Bacot, and tonight he was the best player on the floor, scoring 25 points, and grabbing 13 rebounds.

  3. Transfers: Carolina overhauled their roster after missing the NCAA Tournament, bringing in 5 transfers. Cormac Ryan led all transfers with 13 points, and was 3-7 from behind the arc, as he looked the part as R.J. Davis’s backcourt mate. Harrison Ingram added 12, on 4-9 shooting, and added 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Wojcik may have scored 5 points, but his ball movement and overall effort were noticeable. Jae’Lyn Withers played 15 minutes, scored 4 points, but more importantly provided the type of perimeter defense that will be beneficial in league play. James Okonkwo played just a minute, but even he recorded a rebound. The three transfers that started, all validated the reasons Carolina brought them in.

  4. Second-Half Defense: After allowing 41 first-half points, and 50% shooting, Carolina got after the Highlanders in the second half, limiting them to 29 points, and 36% shooting. The Tar Heels were better at staying in front of the ball, and their constant contesting led to more misses. You even saw a little pressure in the backcourt, mainly applied by Seth Trimble, which speaks to the versatility that exists on the roster.

  5. Elliot Cadeau: The debut of the freshman was highly anticipated, and Cadeau reminded us all that he’s supposed to be playing his final season of high school basketball. He scored 5 points on 2-6 shooting, but did dish out 6 assists in 19 minutes, against 2 turnovers. The game was too fast for him in the first half, but after he settled into the game, his ball handling, and vision allowed him to dominate the game via the pass, which will be a nice addition to Carolina’s offense this season.

  6. Turnovers: Carolina turned it over 8 times in the first half, allowing Radford to control the game for the majority of the first 20 minutes. Once Carolina started to value the basketball more, their offense got even more efficient, and Radford couldn’t keep up.

Up Next: Carolina returns to the hardwood on Sunday, when they host Lehigh at 2, on the ACC Network.


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