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Three key plays showcase UNC men's basketball's new-look offense in exhibition win

UNC senior guard RJ Davis (4) shoots a three-pointer at 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.

In the UNC men’s basketball team’s first public scrimmage against St. Augustine’s, it took just three baskets to showcase a new-look Tar Heel offense.

Their first three baskets of the game, which came in the opening one minute and 42 seconds, symbolized the improvements that the offense — which finished 13th in the ACC in team field goal percentage — will look to carry over into the 2023 season.

Basket 1

Graduate forward Armando Bacot finds a cutting RJ Davis, leading to an easy layup for the senior guard and a quick 2-0 advantage.

While the Bacot-Davis connection is nothing new, ball movement was a major struggle for last year’s UNC team — the Tar Heels ranked 124th in NCAA Division I in assist/turnover ratio — resulting in a consistently disjointed offense. 

On Friday, the Tar Heels passed up on open looks to find even better ones and finished with 23 team assists.

Junior forward Harrison Ingram said Hubert Davis emphasizes the "0.5 mentality" — a brand of basketball that encourages players to make a decision with the ball within half a second of catching it. By doing this, the Tar Heels are aiming to get back to the "old Carolina" and move the ball as one cohesive unit.

"We were able to always get the next guy, the next great shot," RJ Davis said. "That's always been an emphasis for us and we were just moving the ball and we went from good to great shots today."

Basket 2

RJ Davis comes off a screen at the top of the key, dribbles to his right and knocks down a triple to give UNC a 5-0 lead.

Despite finishing dead last in the ACC in team three-point percentage last season, the Tar Heels knocked down eight of their first 10 three-point attempts and finished Friday shooting 45.7 percent from distance.

RJ Davis led the charge, going 5-6 in the first half from behind the arc. He was one of six UNC players to hit multiple three-pointers — versatility that he thinks will make UNC dangerous this season.

“We have a lot of shooters and a lot of players that are able to spread the floor and we don’t always have to rely on the paint,” he said. “Because we know that when we play, teams are going to double Mando and then they're going to have to decide whether they're going to double or cover us from the perimeter.”

Basket 3

RJ Davis pickpockets a St. Augustine’s guard, goes coast-to-coast and converts an and-one layup to put the Tar Heels up 8-0.

The bucket was the start of a 25-0 advantage for UNC in fast break points. Graduate guard Paxson Wojcik said UNC prides itself in pushing the pace and running after both makes and misses. 

Last year, this was an area that the team was lacking in, leading the preseason No. 1 team to end the year 170th in the nation in fast break points.

“We want teams to know that when they see that North Carolina game on the schedule, when they see our bus and they see our plane when we get there, they know they got to run,” Ingram said.

The Tar Heels turned the initial 8-0 run into a dominant 64-point victory. While it was just an exhibition game, Hubert Davis believes these offensive adjustments can be replicated during the regular season.

“One of the things that I told the team throughout the game is, 'Yes, we're doing some good things, but the encouraging part was that the things that we were doing, I think translates,'” he said. “It just wasn't something that we did well tonight. It was something that we can do well every night and moving forward.”


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