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Thursday January 20th

No. 19 UNC men's basketball showcases revamped 'Carolina Way' in exhibition opener

The Carolina Way isn’t dead — it’s just been modified. 

In Friday night’s 83-55 exhibition win against Elizabeth City State, North Carolina men’s basketball and new head coach Hubert Davis showed off the new era of Tar Heel basketball. 

In some ways it’s different, but in other ways, it’s still the same. If you thought a North Carolina team was no longer going to crash the boards, you’d be wrong. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Vikings, 49-28, and nearly doubled their offensive rebounding output, 19-10. 

This offensive rebounding effort was noticed in the box score with the Tar Heels being able to accumulate 19 points on second-chance opportunities. Junior center Armando Bacot led the rebounding charge for UNC, collecting seven boards, including three offensive rebounds.

Bacot’s impact wasn’t just limited to rebounds, though. Last year, he only attempted one three.  He matched last season’s total tonight — this time finding the bottom of the net. 

“At the end of the season, when I met with Coach (Roy) Williams and Coach Davis, that was something they really wanted me to focus on,” Bacot said. “Being able to knock down that shot and being able to make that three and then looking over to Coach Williams and kind of seeing him get excited, that was a good feeling,”

The role of the big man is changing in Davis’ offense. Tonight, Bacot, transfer sophomore forward Dawson Garcia and graduate transfer Brady Manek all attempted three-pointers, with the trio going a combined 5-10. 

Being able to mix and match the three big men this year is something that will be an advantage for the Tar Heels. 

“It’s great playing with both of them, because they’re both All-Americans and they bring something so unique to the table,” Garcia said. “Brady can shoot the lights out, Armando’s a monster around the rim, so it’s just fun to play with them both and I think that whatever lineup we’re in, we’re dominant in different ways.”

The addition of transfers is another way the Carolina Way is evolving. It wasn't hard to notice the impact that players like Garcia, Manek and junior transfer Justin McKoy had in Friday’s performance.

In addition to the three-point shooting, the trifecta of transfers also imprinted their game in other areas, notably their aggressive play on the offensive end that led to opportunities at the free-throw line. Garcia and McKoy went a perfect 5-5 and 2-2, respectively, while Manek accumulated the most chances from the stripe, going 4-7. 

Going off the theme of versatility, according to Davis, any lineup that UNC rolls out features players that can guard each position. Pairing bigs as quick as Garcia and Manek, and with guards such as sophomores Caleb Love and RJ Davis, gives the team a plethora of defensive capabilities, something the head coach relishes.

“There’s a number of ways that we can get after teams defensively,” Hubert Davis said. “One of the things that’s important to me is from a defensive standpoint, not let the offensive team get a steady diet of how we’re going to play defensively.”

Mixing up defenses is something that’s a priority to Davis, but mixing up the starting lineup based on the defensive play is a tradition that dates back to the days Dean Smith coached the team.

“That was something that Coach Davis, Coach Sullivan, Coach Frederick and Coach Lebo, when they were here, the starting lineup when they played for Dean Smith was based upon who had the best defensive grade,” Bacot said. “That was something they told us just at the beginning of the season, that they weren’t ever going to name any starters.”

Going into the season opener Tuesday, the Carolina Way certainly isn’t the same as it was last year under Williams, but it isn’t all that different either. If the Tar Heels want to take a jump from the previous two seasons, maybe a few subtle changes could do the trick.  

@noahmnroe

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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