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'The best scorer in the nation': RJ Davis breaks Smith Center scoring record in win over Miami

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UNC senior guard RJ Davis (4) looks for a pass in the Dean E. Smith Center on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 against UMiami. UNC won 75-71.

RJ Davis couldn't wait to call his parents. 

The time difference might be a challenge when reaching his dad, however, as he is in Spain for work.  The senior said he could not wait to tell them about breaking the scoring record at the Dean E. Smith Center — a record held previously by all-time Tar Heel leading scorer Tyler Hansbrough – T-Hans as Davis calls him. 

How did RJ feel when he learned he broke it?

“Speechless."

Davis had a career night in the Smith Center in UNC’s down to the wire 75-71 victory over the Miami Hurricanes. He finished Monday night with 42 points, shooting 63 percent from the field with seven threes. 

His teammates were ecstatic, not just about the Hansbrough record — they would not learn about that till overhearing Marcus Paige discuss it on the bench — but for Davis breaking his career scoring record. 

First year Elliot Cadeau, who was waiting to check in the moment Davis hit the career record-breaking three, stood up, put his hands on head and smiled in disbelief at what his teammate had just accomplished. 

“Unbelievable,” graduate forward Jae’Lyn Withers said. “I heard Marcus talking to one of the managers behind the bench they were saying that the record was 41. I believe he [RJ] had 38 at the time, and I was like ‘Yeah he’s for sure getting to 41’.”

Davis did get to 41. He logged 42 points and made four threes in a row in a 3-minute crucial do-or-die period for the Tar Heels. 

UNC senior guard RJ Davis (4) sets a career high 42 points in the Dean E. Smith Center on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 against UMiami. UNC won 75-71.

While the four-point win over Miami was not the hungriest game the Tar Heels have played according to sophomore guard Seth Trimble, Davis shone as the only UNC player in double digits. 

After not scoring in the first half and going 1-14 from the field last weekend in Charlottesville against UVA, Davis knew he was on from his first made shot. 

“I think I hit my first three shots, I just felt in rhythm,” Davis said. “Everything felt like it was going to go in and I was confident enough to stay there.”

UNC senior guard RJ Davis (4) shoots the ball in the Dean E. Smith Center on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 against UMiami. UNC won 75-71.

His top of the key three is something Davis tinkers with constantly. In practice he envisions the clock winding down and just takes reps shooting from deep. The 3-point range in particular has been a facet of his game that Davis spent the offseason and summer working on. 

He’ll toil on his three after his daily morning time in the gym with Trimble. 

They’ll put on some ‘90s R&B— no rap allowed before noon — some Usher, Ne-Yo, Drake here and there, and sweat it out. 

And the work is paying off. Davis is a clear front-runner for ACC Player of the Year and is in the record big leagues — the Michael Jordan record leagues. 

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Davis outscored the rest of the team, a first for a Tar Heel since January 29, 1983, when Michael Jordan scored a career-high 39 of UNC’s 72 points over Georgia Tech in Greensboro.

“RJ can lead an offense, I mean, he’s a special scorer,” Trimble said. “I think he’s the best scorer in the nation. I mean, [tonight] just shows his impact.”

Davis leads the ACC in scoring this season — by a margin of almost 100 — and is the first Tar Heel with at least 1,900 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 3-pointers.

But as soon as he enters the locker room and the noise dies down and he’s been rinsed in celebration by his teammates, Davis will turn his phone on, get notifications pings, maybe film some content for his next vlog and call his parents. 

“Both of [my parents] really, they know I’m capable of doing this because they believe in me more than I believe in myself,” Davis said. “So they’re definitely going to be geeked and happy for me.” 

Davis is now in the UNC 40-point club with the likes of Bobby Lewis, Billy Cunningham, George Glamack, Harrison Barnes and Hansbrough. 

But even the Smith Center scoring record is not the end-all-be-all for Davis. Once he starts draining buckets he doesn’t want to stop. 

“Once I got 41, I wanted 50,” Davis said.

And does Davis have a 50-point game left in him?

“Tonight, I smoked like two free throws and a couple of threes,” Davis said with a laugh. “But I think I do have a fifty game in me.”

@gracegnugent

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com