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No. 17 UNC soaring ahead of ACC opener vs. FSU

Nov 29, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard RJ Davis (4) with the ball as Tennessee Volunteers guard Zakai Zeigler (5) defends in the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 North Carolina doesn’t intend to fall off the radar this December.

A year ago the Tar Heels faded, but that might not be the case this time as they enter Atlantic Coast Conference play coming off a notable performance.

“We were really trying to put the world on notice,” North Carolina forward Armando Bacot said after his team beat No. 10 Tennessee on Wednesday.

Next comes a visit from Florida State for the ACC opener for both teams Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Tar Heels had a huge first half and held on to defeat the visiting Volunteers 100-92 in the ACC/SEC Challenge.

“Or mindset coming into this game was to be the aggressor,” North Carolina guard RJ Davis said. “We had a lot of players that came into this game with high intentions and we were really locked in this whole week. …

“It’s a great win because I know that we have a big stretch coming, but we have to take it one game at a time.”

North Carolina’s 61 first-half points on Wednesday came against a team with a strong defense.

The Tar Heels (6-1) are 4-0 in home games. Confidence is soaring this week despite an inconsistent second half against Tennessee.

“We think we are the best team in the country when everybody is clicking,” forward Harrison Ingram said. “We still got some chemistry issues, some kinks to figure out how everybody works on the floor.”

Florida State (4-2) also had a rough second half on Wednesday in the ACC/SEC Challenge, but the Seminoles weren’t able to survive. They saw a 17-point lead vanish in the last seven minutes en route to a 68-66 loss to visiting Georgia.

“Hopefully, we have a lesson that we can learn from,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “You don’t ever like to blow a lead in a game that’s very, very important.”

North Carolina’s diverse offense against Tennessee came with Davis notching 27 points, Bacot pumping in 22 and Ingram scoring 20. Freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau’s 10 assists helped keep the offense flowing.

“Elliot has a gift and a talent to not only distribute and pass the ball but also distribute and pass the ball to a player where he can actually do something with it, and he’s just instinctively just really special in that area,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

RJ Davis is averaging 19.4 points per game, and Bacot is contributing 16.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per outing.

There were concerns on defense for North Carolina. Tennessee’s 55.6 percent shooting from the field was the highest mark for a Tar Heels foe since Pitt produced the same figure on Jan. 31, 2017.

Florida State’s Darin Green Jr. racked up a season-high 21 points in the Georgia game.

This will be the second nationally ranked opponent in a three-game stretch for Florida State. The Seminoles beat UNLV and then-No. 18 Colorado in the Sunshine Slam last week at Daytona Beach, Fla., with Jamir Watkins averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in those games to garner Most Valuable Player honors for the event.

Florida State is set to play just its second true road game, having lost 89-68 at Florida on Nov. 17.

–Field Level Media

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