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No. 17 UNC men's basketball routs No. 10 Tennessee, 100-92, in strong offensive showing

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UNC senior forward Armando Bacot (5) dunks the ball during the men’s basketball game against Tennessee in the Dean E. Smith Center on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.

The No. 17 UNC men’s basketball team (6-1) defeated No. 10 Tennessee (4-3), 100-92, in the ACC-SEC Challenge Wednesday night in Chapel Hill.

In a night of extreme offensive production for the Tar Heels, graduate center Armando Bacot paved the way, recording 22 points and leading the team in rebounds with 11. Junior forward Harrison Ingram recorded a season-high tying 20 points, with 12 coming from behind the arc. In a game where he only scored one point, first-year guard Elliot Cadeau served as the biggest playmaker on the team, notching 11 assists. 

"I think, today, this was a huge win for us versus an experienced team," Bacot said. 

From the jump, the Tar Heels dominated, using the momentum gained from an early Ingram uncontested 3-pointer to build an early lead. The Stanford transfer was able to run back down the court once again, and in a moment of deja-vu, knock down the exact same shot, back-to-back. 

To solidify North Carolina's lead, Ingram notched a steal in the fifth minute, which he followed up with a fastbreak two-handed dunk. To put the exclamation point on the early minutes of the game, senior guard RJ Davis sunk a three of his own off an assist from Cadeau before the under-16 media time out.

"From an offensive standpoint it was one of the better halves since I've been here for 12 years as an assistant and as a head coach," Hubert Davis said. "It was pretty special."

After the break, the Tar Heels opened the game up even further. Not to be outdone by Ingram, Bacot began getting involved under the basket — something that he hadn't been able to do consistently throughout UNC's last three games. 

The Volunteers attempted to chip away at the deficit, capitalizing off multiple turnovers from the Tar Heels, but were largely unable to get their shots to fall — especially from beyond the arc. At the end of the half, Tennessee was just 1-13 in 3-point attempts, while UNC was 7-16. 

In a move that's become somewhat expected for North Carolina, the Tar Heels relied heavily on a large rotation of players, with 21 of its 61 first half points coming from the bench. By the time that UNC headed into the locker rooms at the midway point, it boasted a 22-point lead.

Things didn't get any easier for the Volunteers in the second half. 

Despite scoring the first basket out of the break, Tennessee quickly fell even further behind. Both Ingram and Davis continued to drain threes, and Bacot remained a steady presence in the post, to maintain a steady double-digit North Carolina lead. 

However, just under the halfway point of the half, the Volunteers finally managed to claw themselves back into the game, reducing the lead to under 10 points for the first time since the beginning of the first half. 

The comeback was strong, but short-lived. Even with a career performance from guard Dalton Knecht, who racked up 37 points on the night, it proved to not be enough in the end. 

The Tar Heels seized back offensive control, and prevented the Volunteers from completing their come-from-behind. They capped off the dominant top-20 victory with two free throws from Davis, to punctuate a 100-92 win for North Carolina. 

"In my opinion, I don't think there's anybody in the nation who can stop us," Ingram said. I mean talent-wise, team-wise. To stop us you're going to have to have a lot of quick guys [and] hope we miss shots."

The Tar Heels will next take the court to face off against Florida State on Saturday, at 2 p.m. in the Dean E. Smith Center.

@PeaceGwen

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Gwen Peace

Gwen Peace is the 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a senior writer. Gwen is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and peace, war and defense.