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No. 19 UNC men's basketball opens up 2023-24 season with 86-70 win over Radford

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UNC graduate forward Armando Bacot (5) reaches for the ball during the basketball game against Radford in the Dean Smith Center on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. UNC beat Radford 86-70.

The North Carolina men’s basketball team (1-0) opened its season with a win over Radford (0-1), 86-70, at the Dean E. Smith Center on Monday night, securing head coach Hubert Davis' 50th win as a head coach.

Graduate center Armando Bacot led the Tar Heel offense with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Transfers Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan also contributed with three 3-pointers from Ryan and two 3-pointers from Ingram. First-year guard Elliot Cadeau lived up to his pass-first reputation with six assists in the win.

The Tar Heels also exhibited a more disciplined shot percentage compared to last season and an uptick in 3-point shooting percentage, going 35 percent on the night.

UNC opened with three new faces on the court — Brown transfer Paxson Wojcik, Ryan and Ingram — joining Tar Heel stalwarts Armando Bacot and RJ Davis. The starters have a combined 508 games under their collective belts.

“With their leadership qualities and their desire and love to play for Carolina, I think that’s what makes [the starters] so special,” RJ Davis said. “They just love to put that jersey on and go battle. The one thing I do know for sure is that, they're willing to put their bodies on the line.”

Bacot started the game off on a high note with a splashy dunk on an assist from Wojcik to score the first points in the regular season for the Tar Heels. The offense kept rolling as Wojcik and Harrison drained back-to-back threes to give the Tar Heels a lead. However, without ample defense in the paint, Radford put a few buckets on UNC to keep the game close. At the first media timeout, the Tar Heels sat up seven points, 17-10, and were 3-3 from beyond the arc.

“[Ingram's] built like a tank, he’s strong, he can guard one through five,” Bacot said. “So Harry is definitely a different look but glad we got a big guy like that.” 

The Highlanders, however, were able to capitalize on Tar Heel turnovers — six halfway through in the first half alone — and quickly evened it up with the home team. While pick-and-roll passing was not going in UNC’s favor in the first half, the 3-point shooting was pivotal to the Tar Heels’s early offensive output.

With a little under eight minutes left, the Tar Heels found themselves down by three to the Highlanders, ultimately losing the lead and not regaining it until the final minutes of the first half. 

But, as a recurring thorn in the side of the Tar Heels, defense in the paint helped Radford stay a few points ahead of UNC. The Highlanders and Tar Heels went shot-for-shot until the final minutes of the half when Ryan stole the ball and passed to Ingram, who took it to the hole on a fast break, drawing a foul and raucous cheers from the crowd.

“I loved the way that we shared the basketball,” Hubert Davis said. “And I was also really proud of their response in the second half defensively.”  

RJ Davis scored the final points of the half and UNC went into the locker room up 46-41. In the first half, Ryan and Bacot led offense for the Tar Heels with 13 and 10 points, respectively, with Ryan going 2-3 on 3-pointers. 

Ingram started the second half off for UNC with his first 3-pointer of the game, and the offense relied heavily on the rebounding and abilities of Bacot and Ingram, who had the bulk of UNC’s points six minutes into the second frame. Cadeau scored his first point as a Tar Heel after drawing a foul in the paint and followed it up with a field goal from the corner.

Midway through the second half, the Tar Heels started to pull away from the Highlanders by finding an effective offensive rhythm, propelled by Bacot layups, Davis jumpers and 3-pointers courtesy of Ryan. 

With five minutes remaining, UNC sat at a 79-66 lead that it would maintain as the clock ran down. Bacot and Ingram ran the offense in the second half, with a combined 19 points and seven rebounds.

“I was happy to you know, give some fire and provide some energy in that way,” Ryan said. “It was good. We hung in there, we connected well, and we were able to get done.”

The Tar Heels will return to the Smith Center on Sunday to host Lehigh at 2 p.m.

@gracegnugent

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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