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Transfers show out in No. 19 UNC men's basketball's season opener against Radford

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UNC junior forward Harrison Ingram (55) dribbles the ball during the men’s basketball game against Radford at the Dean Smith Center on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023.

Despite two years of college basketball experience, junior forward Harrison Ingram felt nervous ahead of his first regular-season contest in the Dean E. Smith Center.

Once he realized it was just another game, though, he was ready to make an impact, as were the rest of the transfers.

In North Carolina’s 86-70 win over Radford on Monday, the transfers in UNC’s starting lineup showcased why head coach Hubert Davis brought the group to Chapel Hill — to fix the issues of last season, notably the Tar Heels' assist rate and the outside shooting.

North Carolina ranked 310th among Division I teams in assist rate, per KenPom, and ranked 318th in 3-point percentage.

“It was crazy, man,” Ingram said, later adding "But at the 15-minute mark, I locked in a little bit. For the first 40 minutes, just looking out there, I saw fans way up there [in the stands], like we were in the NBA or something like that. It was a good experience.”

Unlike Ingram, graduate guard Paxson Wojcik was a bit more accustomed to the Smith Center. His dad, Doug, coached at UNC and Wojcik played in the Smith Center when Brown visited the Tar Heels in 2021. However, something came flying Wojcik's way before the game that he wasn’t prepared for – Armando Bacot’s elbow.

Coming off of a screen in a shoot-around, Wojcik was getting ready to receive the ball when Bacot inadvertently made a defensive play to stop the transfer from getting his shot off.  

"All I know is he hit the ground and there was blood coming out [of his forehead]," Bacot said. "I was like, 'Wow.'"

10 stitches, a bandage and a headband later, he was ready to play. And 36 seconds into the game, Wojcik showed no signs that the incident impacted him, nailing a 3-pointer from the corner and eliciting a strong response from the crowd.

“Playing in front of the home fans was something I’ve been looking forward to since I committed to Carolina,” Wojcik said. “Just to have my mom in the stands, and some other friends and family, and starting lineups, jump ball, seeing that first bucket go in was really special. I was really excited.”

Nearly 10 minutes into the first half, the impact from the transfers was noticeable, especially from beyond the arc. Last year, the Tar Heels' 3-point shooting was dismal, sitting at 31.16 percent for the season.

On Monday, the transfers proved they had the ability to shoot from distance. The first five 3-pointers UNC attempted against Radford all swished through, with four coming from Ingram, Wojcik, and graduate guard Cormac Ryan. Ryan and Ingram finished as the second and fourth leading scorer for UNC, respectively.

“We have guys that can consistently make shots from the outside,” Davis said. “What that does is that it gives us the spacing. It gives us the spacing to be able to throw the ball in the post. It gives us the spacing to be able to penetrate and get to the basket.”

Ahead of Monday’s game, Wojcik visualized in his mind how he wanted his first game as a Tar Heel to go. Although getting elbowed by Bacot is far from what he envisioned as the start to his North Carolina career, his ideal scenario for tonight still came true.

“[I wanted] to go out there, have fun, play as a team and ultimately come out with the win," he said. "And I think that’s what we did.”

@thenoahmonroe

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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