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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 17 UNC men's basketball's 22-point run allows Tar Heels to top FSU in ACC-opener

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UNC sophomore forward Jalen Washington (13) shoots a floater during the basketball game against Florida State at the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

Behind a second-half comeback and 22-point run, the No. 17 UNC men’s basketball team (6-1, 1-0 ACC) defeated Florida State (4-3, 0-1 ACC), 78-70, in its first ACC matchup of the season on Saturday afternoon at the Dean E. Smith Center. 

Graduate Armando Bacot and senior RJ Davis led the Tar Heel offense with 27 and 13 points respectively, while Bacot notched his fourth double-double of the season. 

After coming off a high-octane offensive showing in the Tar Heels' 100-92 victory over Tennessee on Wednesday, UNC looked shaky and out of rhythm to begin its bout with the Seminoles. Midway through the first half, UNC was 2-for-8 for eight from three with three turnovers compared to FSU’s 50 percent mark from beyond the arc.

“They're long, they're athletic, and they play their brand of basketball, which is they try and take you away from what you want to do,” UNC graduate guard Cormac Ryan said. “I still think it's mostly on us though. I mean, we came out a little flat.”

Junior Harrison Ingram electrified the Smith Center with a steal and dunk on a fast break that forced the Seminoles to call timeout with a little over seven minutes left in the first half. The Seminoles stayed neck-and-neck with UNC, shooting around the perimeter and creating screens to mess with an inconsistent Tar Heel defense. 

In the low-scoring first half, the Tar Heels jogged to the locker room down six, 35-29, with only Davis in double digits and low shooting percentages from both the field and beyond the arc. 

The second half started with fireworks from the Seminoles as they increased their lead to double digits with multiple threes and a layup. Ingram showed the first signs of life for the Tar Heels in the second half, driving to the basket on the fast break and finishing with a raucous layup.

The Seminoles maintained a comfortable lead for the first nine minutes of the second ​​half, but the Tar Heels looked to change the momentum as Ryan quickly found success from beyond the arc and on the defensive end. Sophomore guard Seth Trimble earned a fast break layup and junior forward Jae’lyn Withers continued the positive rhythm with a block Davis turned into a layup for the Tar Heels. 

For the first time in a game, the Tar Heels debuted a diamond press that was able to propel a crucial offensive run.

“This is the first time that we used it in a game so that, not only does that give the players confidence, that also gives me confidence,” head coach Hubert Davis said

The game got chippy with nine minutes left, with emotion pouring out from both Ingram and Bacot as the Tar Heels inched closer to the Seminoles. UNC pulled within two and kept the game tight as Davis hit a 3-pointer with just over eight minutes left. The Tar Heels continued their mojo as Trimble threw up an under-the-basket hook shot on a defensive rebound by Davis to tie the game at 56 and start a 4-minute UNC offensive tear. 

As the Seminoles began to creep up on the Tar Heel lead heading into the game’s final minutes, Davis yet again stepped up, hitting a monster three to ensure the Tar Heels’ 8-point victory.

“I have the ultimate highest confidence in this team, because I just know each and every day, each and everyone in the locker room is gonna give us their all,” RJ Davis said. “And I think [that] was evident today. We held each other accountable even when we were down.”

The Tar Heels will travel to the Big Apple to take on the reigning national champions, No. 4 UConn in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday at 9 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.

@gracegnugent

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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