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UNC men's basketball newcomers make debut in 117-53 exhibition victory over Saint Augustine's

UNC graduate guard Paxson Wojcik (8) mid-lay-up during the UNC men’s basketball scrimmage versus St. Augustine’s on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in the Dean E. Smith Center. The Tar Heels won 117-53.

After a disappointing 2022-23 campaign and an offseason of turnover, a rejuvenated UNC men’s basketball team with seven newcomers wrapped up prep for the new season in an exhibition against Saint Augustine’s, winning 117-53 Friday night at the Smith Center.

Three of those newcomers started for the Tar Heels. Transfers graduate guard Cormac Ryan, graduate guard Paxson Wojcik and junior forward Harrison Ingram joined mainstays graduate forward Armando Bacot and senior guard RJ Davis in the starting five.

Davis scored the first bucket for UNC, cutting to the basket and finishing with a smooth finger roll with an assist from Bacot. On the first Falcons possession, the Tar Heels forced a shot clock violation.

UNC started on a 10-0 run, and Davis accounted for the first eight points. He drilled a three from the right wing and then stole the ball, finishing in the open floor with a crafty reverse layup, plus a foul.

First-year guard Elliot Cadeau and first-year forward Zayden High were the first off the bench for head coach Hubert Davis at the 16:45 mark. North Carolina led 15-6 at the under-16 timeout in the first half.

Davis came out of the timeout scorching hot. He hit three triples in quick succession, bringing his point total to 17 with 14:14 on the first-half timer and increasing the UNC lead to 18. Davis started the game 6-7 from the field and 4-5 from long range. UNC never looked back.

The Tar Heels shot the lights out in the first half. Beyond Davis’ five three-pointers, Ingram and Ryan banged home two triples each in the first 20, and UNC shot 56 percent from distance for the half.

Just before the under-eight timeout, an emphatic, two-handed jam on the fast break from Ingram made the North Carolina lead 26.

Cadeau’s quickness and explosiveness were on display when he broke a defender's ankles and then finished at the rim high off the glass, plus a foul.

Ryan exited the game late in the first half with a lower-body injury and did not return.

“[It was] just a little tweak,” Hubert Davis said. “He could have gone back into the game, and I decided not to play him in the second half.”

UNC led 65-26 after a rampant opening 20 minutes. The leading scorers for the Tar Heels were Davis with 20, Ingram with 14 and Ryan with 10. Hubert Davis’ squad shot 61 percent from the field and recorded 15 assists.

“Y’all haven’t seen the half of it,” Ingram said. “We didn’t run half our plays out there. It’s coming. We’re coming. We’re coming.”

The Tar Heels opened the second half on an 8-0 run, and Wojcik knocked down the first UNC three of the second half. Davis picked up where he left off with a floating layup over multiple defenders just before the under-16 timeout.

Cadeau lit up the Smith Center again when he sliced into the lane and finished with an electric one-handed slam, and UNC led 89-43 with just under eight to play. Sophomore forward Jalen Washington knocked down his second three of the night to get UNC over the century mark with 4:58 remaining. Senior guard Creighton Lebo added three triples late in the game for good measure.

The Tar Heels did, however, come back to Earth from three in the second half. They shot only 6-17 and recorded just eight assists. Davis was prolific for UNC all night on both ends, recording two steals to go along with his team-high 22 points. Bacot and High both record double-doubles, while Ingram, with 16 points, was one rebound short of that mark. UNC outrebounded the Falcons 62-25 and dominated in fast break points 25-0.

“I was very encouraged,” Hubert Davis said. “The main thing that I talked to the team [about] before the game was [that] I want them to have fun. This is a game that they love, a place that they love, and I think people can see this is a team that enjoys and loves being together.”

North Carolina officially begins the 2023-24 season at the Smith Center Nov. 6 when it takes on Radford at 7 p.m.

@dthsports |

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