Thu, 30 Nov 2023

No. 20 Tar Heels tune up for tough road ahead vs. UC Riverside

Field Level Media
17 Nov 2023, 08:19 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

No. 20 North Carolina continues the tune-up track as the Tar Heels become more acclimated with a new-look roster early in the season.

Another opportunity to address any shortcomings arrives when UC Riverside visits for Friday night's game in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Tar Heels (2-0) eventually pulled away from their two first opponents. Coach Hubert Davis liked the approach in both games, particularly the leadership of guard RJ Davis.

"There's a calmness because they've been there before," Hubert Davis said. "And when you have RJ out there on the floor, you just feel like things are going to work out and good things are going to happen."

North Carolina shot a combined 49.2 percent in its two wins over Radford (86-70) and Lehigh (90-68).

The game with UC Riverside could be a chance for more lineup experiments for the Tar Heels before they head off for three games next week in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

"I think everyone brings different stuff to the table," fifth-year senior forward Armando Bacot said. "There are a lot of different versions of our team that we can bring out there and I think that's huge."

There's a learn-as-they-go element to this part of the season. RJ Davis and Bacot are adjusting to transfers Harrison Ingram, Paxton Wojcik, Cormac Ryan and Jae'Lyn Withers along with freshmen Elliott Cadeau and Zayden High.

"We have a lot of players who are able to provide a lot of good moments," RJ Davis said. "At the same time, we're still learning how each other plays and just trying to get a feel for the chemistry."

The Tar Heels are focusing on address of weakness in these first few home games after defeating Radford and Lehigh.

"Every game is going to be a different focus," Ingram said.

UC Riverside (1-2) is winless in two games against Division I opponents. This will be the Highlanders' third consecutive road game.

In Sunday's 76-65 loss at Portland, UC Riverside coach Mike Magpayo was ejected in the first half for being assessed two technical fouls.

This is the second of UC Riverside's four nonconference road games against teams from Power 6 conferences.

"We have challenged ourselves over the last four years in the nonconference schedule to purposely prepare ourselves for the rigors of the Big West and anticipate another exciting season from the start," Magpayo said.

UC Riverside freshman Barrington Hargress scored 16 points in the season-opening win over UC-Merced and topped that with 17 points at Portland. He paces the team with 12.3 points and 4.0 assists per game.

The Highlanders will be in search of a memorable result. The Tar Heels know what to expect from underdog visitors.

"They come in with a purpose and a plan, and we might not realize it, but we are a lot teams' Super Bowl," North Carolina guard Seth Tremble said.

Bacot became the program's career leader in offensive rebounds Sunday and has scored 1,856 career points. He's averaging 23.5 points per game through two games this season and stands seven points away from 10th place on North Carolina's all-time scoring list.

"Armando has been amazing throughout his entire career, but there's a sense of urgency that I haven't seen in him," Hubert Davis said.

--Field Level Media

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