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UNC men's basketball capitalizes off of an explosive five minutes to clinch win over Florida State

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Junior forward Harrison Ingram (55) dunks the ball during a game against Florida State at the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday, December 2, 2023. The Tar Heels won, 78-70.

After a layup with seven minutes left in the second half, junior forward Harrison Ingram turned away from the basket, walked a few feet and roared. 

It was a moment of catharsis after, just a few seconds before on an Elliot Cadeau layup, the Tar Heels had finally established their first lead of the second half. Against Florida State on Saturday, a 22-point run allowed UNC to complete a come-from-behind 78-70 victory. According to Ingram, Marcus Paige says that at least five games a year go in the ‘Eh’ category. And while Ingram said UNC's victory over Florida State is one of them, a crucial five minute stretch in the middle of the second half ensured North Carolina pulled a win out of so-so play.

With 12 minutes left and FSU up 52-43, graduate guard Cormac Ryan snatched the ball from Seminole guard Cam’ron Fletcher. He tossed it down the court to sophomore guard Seth Trimble on the fast break layup.

Two points. 

When asked if he knew the team was going to roll after the layup, Trimble simply said "Yeah, yeah."

Then, with eleven and a half minutes remaining, junior forward Jae'Lyn Withers made a block in the paint and graduate center Armando Bacot scooped up the ball, handing it over to senior guard RJ Davis for a layup.

Just like that, two more points. 

The UNC offense continued that rhythm for five minutes. Some variation of steal, block, layup and score. In those comeback minutes the Tar Heels were on their feet, and the Seminoles were not. A 22-to-4 point run where the Tar Heels went from down seven points to up by 11 all starting with Trimble’s layup.

“All we needed was one play,” Ingram said, punctuating his sentiment with a snap. “One play to get everybody going and we knew we were gonna win.”

This all rested on the defensive success of the diamond press. The speedy 1-2-1-1 formation, which significantly cuts down opponents' decision-making time, was debuted by UNC in the second frame. After a lackluster first half of only 29 points, head coach Hubert Davis knew something had to change. 

“I don't mind trying new stuff,” Davis said. “If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't. But what we were doing was not working, and so we needed to change the course and to try something.”

It worked.

It’s not exactly a new defensive scheme for the Tar Heels — they work on the press in practice everyday, without fail. But, they had yet to bring it out during a game this season. 

“I went into the huddle and I said ‘Guys do you like this, do you want to continue to do this?'” Davis said. “They said ‘Coach, let's keep doing it.'"

While UNC is more comfortable using a full-court press off a dead ball or an inbound, in the second half the Tar Heels locked into their press after every Seminole shot.

While typical firecracker Ingram had somewhat of an off-night, Trimble stepped up in those five minutes and played a scrappy defensive style that got the ball rolling for the Tar Heels.

Positioning is a big part of the press, but Ryan said he thinks it comes down to energy. And for five minutes Ingram and Trimble were completely full of it.

“I was just lit,” Ingram said.  

@gracegnugent

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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