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No. 7 UNC men's basketball slams Virginia Tech, 96-81, in dominant home win

UNC MEN'S BASKETBALL VS. VIRGINIA TECH
UNC sophomore guard Seth Trimble (7) shoots the ball during the men’s basketball game against Virginia Tech at the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. UNC beat Virginia Tech 96-81.

Points in the paint and offensive rebounding led No. 7 North Carolina (20-6, 12-3 ACC) past Virginia Tech (14-11, 6-8 ACC), 96-81, Saturday afternoon in the Dean E. Smith Center. 

Graduate center Armando Bacot recorded a 25-point double-double, hounding the Hokie defense in the paint all game. Senior guard RJ Davis also finished with 20 points.

After four empty possessions to start the game, the Tar Heels leapt out in front with a 9-0 run by the under-16 timeout. A wide-open three from graduate guard Cormac Ryan, paired with a floater, put-back and handful of free throws by junior wing Harrison Ingram, drove UNC’s early offense. 

“[Cormac is] a great shooter so he’s always going to be able to knock it down — especially in big moments,” Davis said. “The past two games he's been able to knock it down and it's spread the floor a little bit.” 

Midway through the half, Bacot got his number in the mix for the first time. He scored on consecutive backdowns and later tacked on a layup to extend UNC’s lead past double digits.

Davis, however, didn’t record a field goal until the under-five minute mark of the first period. After his inaugural basket – a fast break layup assisted by Ingram – Davis tallied six straight points, including a long floater from the left elbow. 

In UNC’s final possession of the half, first-year guard Elliot Cadeau used a handful of dribble moves to shake his defender before getting a highly contested layup to drop, awarding the Tar Heels a 50-39 advantage heading into the locker rooms. 

After 20 minutes, Ingram led all scorers with 11 points and 12 rebounds to cement a first-half double-double. 

Davis took less time to get his name into the scorebook in the second half. A cross-court pass from Cadeau found Davis on the wing, where he splashed a triple as time was about to expire. 

Foul trouble against Virginia Tech’s bigs prompted issues in guarding the paint for the Hokies. North Carolina focused its attack in the lane, recording 26 second-half points in the paint – 16 of which were from Bacot. 

“Mando definitely had the advantage going into the second half,” Davis said. “The key emphasis was to get the ball inside, so we made sure that he was going to post hard and then [we got] the ball down low to him.”

Despite trailing by as much as 16 in the early minutes of the second, Virginia Tech hung around for the majority of the game. A basket by senior center Lynn Kidd cut UNC’s lead to seven with under eight to play. 

“We [won’t] have guys worrying about it all week about how they played and in a bad mood,” Bacot said. “Everybody ate today so it was a lot of fun.”

However, a smooth step-back jumper by Davis moments later answered the call and added a third 3-pointer to his performance. 

North Carolina closed out the final few minutes in comfortable fashion, en route to its 20th victory of the season. 

UNC will have a week-long break from games, before its matchup next Saturday in Charlottesville against No. 21 Virginia.

@cadeshoemaker23

@dthsports l sports@dailytarheel.com

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