A lot has changed in the nearly three weeks that the North Carolina men’s basketball has been away from Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels are no longer the No. 1 team in the country, nor are they ranked in the top 25.
UNC no longer boasts an undefeated record, having lost four straight games before beating Georgia Tech 75-59 on Saturday, picking up their first conference win.
However, one thing has remained unchanged — playing in front of a Dean E. Smith Center crowd gives the Tar Heels an advantage over any team, having lost only three games at home in the last three seasons.
“It was a long few weeks on the road,” junior guard RJ Davis said. "Just getting back to our home court and feeling the crowd’s energy, that’s what we needed. It builds off our confidence and kind of gets us going so we can find our rhythm again.”
With just over three minutes remaining in the first half and the two ACC foes separated by just two points. North Carolina went into a different gear. The team found their rhythm and went on an 11-0 run to close out the half, forcing Georgia Tech to miss four shots and turn the ball over twice.
“That last three minutes of the first half, that’s the first time I felt like it looked like Carolina basketball,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “The way we were defending, the way that we were running, and then the play where RJ (Davis) had a wide-open three and he hit Pete (Nance) in the corner. I came in at halftime and that’s the first thing I said to the coaching staff.”
For the rest of the game, North Carolina didn’t allow the Yellow Jackets to come within 10 points of the lead. RJ Davis and senior center Armando Bacot helped to ensure this on both ends of the floor.
The duo dominated the game, with RJ Davis leading UNC in scoring with 22 points and recording his second double-double of the year with 10 rebounds. Bacot added 21 points and 13 rebounds in his return to the floor after suffering a shoulder injury on Nov. 30.
“Having to sit and watch and not be fully 100 percent these last few games, it’s just great to be back out there,” Bacot said. “I really missed it and I really wanted to play all week with my team practicing and me not being able to practice.”
With Bacot back in the fold and the team settling into a less travel-heavy part of the season, North Carolina has a moment to work out the issues that have plagued the team in the past several weeks.
“We need to build off this win,” RJ Davis said. “We’re back home so we got the crowd, we got the energy on our side, so now it’s about not getting too complacent and remaining positive and moving forward and building off of this.”
@dthsports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.