A year removed from an underwhelming first season in Chapel Hill, sophomore guards RJ Davis and Caleb Love seem to be finding their groove early for the UNC men's basketball team this year.
Heading into their first conference matchup of the year against Georgia Tech, both guards were averaging double figures in the scoring column – Love with 16.1 points per game and Davis with 13 – and Sunday afternoon was a continuation of that trend in the team's 79-62 win.
In front of a hostile crowd in McCamish Pavilion, the young guards elevated their play, so good that head coach Hubert Davis could barely afford to give them a breather.
“I couldn’t take them off the floor,” he said. “They were just too good and they’ve been really good throughout the year.”
Playing two point guards is nothing new to the Tar Heels. The first pair that comes to mind is Marcus Paige and Joel Berry – a lethal combination of scoring and facilitation that heavily influenced Davis’ approach.
Coming into the season with two talented lead guards once again, Davis had to make a decision to help his young team best utilize its talents, and he seems to have found exactly that when running Love and Davis at the same time.
“One of the reasons I love playing two point guards is because before I got into coaching, I never really looked at it that way,” Hubert Davis said. “Then we had Joel Berry and Marcus Paige and I said ‘Wow, that’s pretty good, that’s nice to have, two ball handlers out there.' You can never be pressed and you can never be taken out of your offense. You’ve got multiple playmakers that can make plays for your team and that’s what we have in RJ and Caleb.”
Against the Yellow Jackets, both guards showed off their playmaking ability. Davis left Atlanta with 23 points and five assists and Love followed close behind, finishing with 17 points and five assists while only turning the ball over once.
Just when Georgia Tech thought it had one of them bottled up, the other would strike, which played a crucial role in allowing UNC to build its big lead in the second half.
When the pair are playing like they did on Sunday, they can be hard to stop, and Love realizes the edge their combination can bring to this year’s team.
“It helps a lot because they can’t really pick,” Love said. “If they guard me, they can’t guard RJ and if they guard RJ they can’t guard me.”
Tonight they couldn’t guard either, and the two sophomores found success early and often, leading North Carolina to a crucial early-season ACC victory.
After getting some first-year jitters out of the way, the duo appear ready to make some noise, and for a team that has struggled to score at times over the past couple of seasons, the progression of the young guards seems to have the Tar Heels moving in the right direction.
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