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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's basketball defeats Wake Forest in return to Chapel Hill, 88-79

UNC junior guard RJ Davis (4) dribbles the ball down the court during the men's basketball game against Wake Forest at the Dean Smith Center on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.

The North Carolina men’s basketball team (10-5, 2-2 ACC) defeated Wake Forest (10-5, 2-2 ACC), 88-79, in Wednesday night’s matchup in the Dean E. Smith Center.

What happened?

The Tar Heels put up the first points of the game after senior forward Armando Bacot snagged a steal in the paint and laid in a basket off an assist from junior guard Caleb Love. The Demon Deacons got on the board quickly, though, with a bucket from behind the arc followed by a free throw. After an offensive rebound and follow-up by Bacot, the teams traded threes to tie the game at seven early on. 

Just over five minutes into the half, graduate forward guard Leaky Black logged his second 3-pointer of the game, which he followed with a block at the other end of the court that junior guard Caleb Love was able to convert. Only two minutes later, Black sank another from deep, giving UNC a 15-12 lead. The Demon Deacons were keeping the gap tight, however, scoring consecutive fast break buckets to trail by a point. 

After a defensive stop, junior guard RJ Davis nailed a three, but Wake Forest responded with a deep jumper. The Tar Heels cashed in on their next two possessions, bringing their lead to 26-18; however, an and-one and several free throws kept Wake Forest within striking range. 

Black was attacking the basket, and it was paying off: an and-one and another contested bucket put UNC up six with five minutes remaining in the half. Both teams kept the pressure high, but a last minute 3-pointer gave Wake Forest a 38-37 halftime lead. 

The Tar Heels were quick out of the gate to start the second half, with Davis sinking consecutive baskets and a layup and Love converting a steal on offense. Davis found the hoop for his fourth bucket just four minutes into the half. Regardless, the Demon Deacons were hot from downtown, hitting four 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the half to keep a narrow lead over the Tar Heels.

Another three for Davis put UNC within one point of the lead, but Wake Forest continued to finish down low. First-year guard Seth Trimble scored a jumper in the paint to give UNC the lead, and topped it off with a block on the other end. After trading possessions, UNC went on a fiery run, starting with a steal by Davis which Trimble put in the hole on UNC’s end; Davis then grabbed another steal, which he lobbed to Bacot for an explosive dunk. Bacot and Davis then swapped roles, with Bacot logging the steal and Davis cashing in from three-point range. This 7-0 run put UNC up, 70-64.

The energy didn’t stop. Trimble scored off a put-back on a low offensive rebound, then Love swished a three after a steal from Black gave UNC possession. Just a minute later, Davis had a steal at the top of the key followed by an easy layup. UNC led 79-73 with five minutes to play. 

The Demon Deacons stayed within striking range, but could not pull it off. The Tar Heels came out on top, 88-79.

Who stood out? 

In the first half, Black was UNC’s spark, scoring 14 points and going 3-4 from the 3-point range. His game total of 18 is a career high.

Davis had an explosive second half, scoring 22 points for the Tar Heels. He was hot from behind the arc, going 4-6 on 3-pointers. 

When was it decided?

With much of the game seeing a 1-point lead, the game belonged to anyone until late. After a 3-pointer from Davis put the Tar Heels up nine with under four minutes to play, UNC slowed down the ball and it became clear the Demon Deacons would be unable to battle back.  

Why does it matter?

After a close loss to Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels were in need of an ACC win to boost morale as they head into consistent ACC play. This victory proved that UNC has the energy it takes to stay with and defeat talented teams like Wake Forest, who has defeated both Duke and Virginia Tech. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will tip off against Notre Dame at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7.


@dthsports |

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