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Wednesday February 8th

Analysis: Takeaways from UNC basketball's 'Live Action' event

UNC junior guard, Rj Davis (4), is defended by freshman guard, Seth Trimble(0) during scrimmage at the Live Action Carolina Basketball event on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.
Buy Photos UNC junior guard, Rj Davis (4), is defended by freshman guard, Seth Trimble(0) during scrimmage at the Live Action Carolina Basketball event on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

At UNC’s 'Live Action with Carolina Basketball' event on Friday night, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams made it clear they’re entering this season with confidence. 

Coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance and returning four of last year’s starters, the women's team is looking to take another leap this year, as the Tar Heels hope to earn a top-four seed and host their first two NCAA Tournament games at Carmichael Arena. 

And the Final Four banner and rings presented to the men's program were a nice formality, but the team still isn't satisfied. It's clear that the men — who are also returning four starters from their national championship run — expect to run it back this season.

“We’re locked in, we’re ready to go,” head coach Hubert Davis said.

Both teams wrapped up 'Live Action' with intra-squad scrimmages, giving fans a glimpse at what they have been working on this offseason. Here are a few takeaways from those contests:

Men’s starters’ chemistry at an ‘all-time high’ 

Right now, developing chemistry in the frontcourt tandem of graduate transfer forward Pete Nance and senior forward Armando Bacot is a top priority for Hubert Davis.

But if you ask junior guard RJ Davis, the team’s synergy as a whole seems to be just fine.

“The chemistry’s at an all-time high,” he said. “Pete just got here, but as soon as he stepped onto campus, it felt like he’d been here a while.”

With junior guard Caleb Love sitting out the scrimmage due to hamstring tightness, RJ Davis had more opportunities to showcase his arsenal: sneaking wrap-around passes to Nance off the pick-and-roll, finishing over larger defenders with both hands and sinking deep pull-up threes coming off of screens.

After falling to Kansas last season in the NCAA championship game, the White Plains, N.Y. native had plenty of time to reflect in preparation for this season. And if Friday night was any indication, the core of veteran Tar Heels likely won’t be struggling with complacency or chemistry this season.

“I’ve watched the national championship game a lot,” RJ Davis said. “I couldn’t even count how many times I’ve watched it, just because of how hungry I am to get back there. I want a different outcome this year.”

New men’s faces show promise

First-years Seth Trimble, Tyler Nickel, Will Shaver and junior walk-on Beau Maye each contributed a few highlights of their own on Friday.

“Seth is tenacious on the defensive end,” RJ Davis said. “Super quick guard, athletic. Tyler can shoot the ball at a high clip.”

Trimble was tasked with guarding the crafty junior point guard and held his own on a few isolation possessions, pressing up on the starting point guard at the half court line. As Trimble gains more collegiate experience, fans can expect him to contribute as a defensive stalwart in the backcourt.

Nickel, who holds Virginia’s all-time high school scoring record, impressed offensively — particularly from behind the arc. Additionally, Beau Maye, brother of former UNC star Luke Maye, knocked down back-to-back deep balls from the left wing and also scored inside with a layup.

Barring any injuries in the frontcourt, the redshirt first-year forward Shaver likely won’t see significant minutes. He did, however, demonstrate solid court vision with a few clean backdoor passes.

Kennedy Todd-Williams is going be a force

Todd-Williams started all 32 games for the women last season as a sophomore and was third on the team in scoring with 10.8 points per game. She was especially impressive in two performances against Louisville and Arizona, which led to two statement wins for the Tar Heels.

On Friday night, she showed her ability to score from all levels of the floor with a baseline pull-up shot, a left-handed drive and two 3-pointers. She also ran the point for her team, and her overall versatility led to impressive ball movement.

Teammates Eva Hodgson and Malu Tshitenge agreed that Todd-Williams, who nearly doubled her scoring average from her first to second season, has made another jump as a junior.

“She’s literally in the gym all the time,” Hodgson said. “That kid sleeps in the gym, I swear, like actually. And it shows. In a situation like tonight, you were able to see all of her hard work paying off, and that’s exciting.”

Women’s frontcourt extending range 

In the women’s scrimmage, UNC forwards Anya Poole, Alexandra Zelaya, Destiny Adams and Tshitenge put their shooting range on display. 

The 6-foot-4 junior Zelaya hit a 3-pointer, Adams was 3-for-3 on baseline jumpers, while Tshitenge and Poole both pulled up from the foul line with success.

“The more our bigs can play within range, it gives us a lot more spacing,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “And we’ve got really dynamic guards that can play in space.”

Tshitenge attributed this improved range to UNC’s chemistry.

“Our guards now are trusting us to take those 15-footers and make those 15-footers," she said. "It really comes from trust from our guards and if our guards trust us, we’ve got to knock them down every time.”

@danielhwei  | @shelbymswanson 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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