Chapel Hill, N.C.- "21 cooked us"
These were the first words of head coach Hubert Davis when he sat down to speak with the press. Numerically, #21, or Aaron Cooley, didn't show, but defensively stopped UNC dead in their tracks.
This was the first game played by Brown University in two years, and it showed they were hungry. Brown came in hot opening the first half, knocking down 21 of 35 of their shots (60% FG). They led at halftime, 50-47, and opened the second with an immediate six points. This was not the expected second game for Hubert Davis.
The son of a former UNC coach, Paxson Wojcik, made his presence known in Chapel Hill. The NC native closed out his showcase with 14 points, securing the last bucket for Brown with 16 seconds in regulation.
Tonight was a true evaluation for this young Carolina team, and it was not wasted on them. A note reminding them of Coach Williams, adversity builds a team. The Tar Heels found themselves in a shootout with Brown, matching shots for shots. Brown shot 60% from the field in the first half and locked the perimeter.
The game plan in the first half appeared to feed the beast, as Armando Bacot had one of his best nights. Bacot was 10 for 11 from the floor. His field goal percentage of .909 equals the fourth-highest in a game in the Smith Center by a Tar Heel, fifth career 20-point game, and an added a game-high 10 rebounds for his 19th career double-double.
"Carolina’s seven turnovers equal the sixth fewest ever by UNC in the Smith Center. We grew a lot as a team. It was good to be in a dog fight early in the season to get the kinks out. We're so good... Dawson and Kerwin haven't even had their night yet. We just have to get better defensively."
The key to UNC maintaining focus were their captains. Chosen by their peers, and rightfully so.
RJ Davis was electric and the hot hand as he finished the night with a career high of 26 points, and six three-pointers. Davis was unstoppable the last seven minutes of play, knocking down four critical threes; the 6:55 mark to give the Heels the lead, 78-77, and two more to close out the game. Davis was 6 for 9 from three-point range. His six threes are the most by a Tar Heel, since Cole Anthony made seven at Syracuse in February of 2020.
Post-game, Davis confessed his play against Loyola Maryland wasn't ideal, and tonight was his.
"I wanted to redeem myself from the last game. I wanted to have a lot of positive energy and just play my game. Let the flow of the game take care of itself."
Coach Davis acknowledged how tough his team fought, but he's high on the anticipation of getting back in the gym to avoid the same mistakes,
I was proud how this team responded, and they didn't panic. Everybody that played made a play that helped us win. We just weren't good at all defensively. We have tomorrow off, but I'm excited about Sunday and Monday in preparation for getting better at defense.
But there's one stat Davis can hang his hat on. Carolina’s seven turnovers equal the sixth fewest ever by UNC in the Smith Center.
The sixth man matters. It's been close to 18 months since the Dean Dome experienced 15,000, but tonight was the beginning. The Heels need every ounce of the chats late in the second, which made the push to secure the win.
"I feel like we just need to take pride and play defense," said Leaky Black. "You make your mind up and get that done. Obviously, we can score the ball, but defense will carry us where we need to be."
A late but not forgotten, Dawson Garcia's early buckets in the second half that turned the tide. The recent transfer scored six important buckets that gave UNC their first lead in the second half. Caleb Love, while not effective in shooting, pushed his team defensively, showing up major in the second half. And let's not forget Leaky Black, the senior who played 19 impressive minutes of lock down defense, opening the game with the first points.
UNC looks forward to game night on Tuesday, November 16 at College of Charleston, 8:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.