No. 9 UNC Basketball (9-3, 1-0 ACC) completed their 2023-24 non-conference slate with a resounding 105-60 victory over Charleston Southern (4-9, 0-0 Big South). It's extremely unlikely that history will remember this game - blowout wins in buy games generally aren't. I'll certainly remember it as my first game at the Dean E. Smith Center, but there are a few unique things that may cause this game to stick in the minds of others as well.
For one, this night featured a pregame tribute to former Tar Heel player and color commentator Eric Montross, who passed away on December 17 following a battle with cancer. Postgame, head coach Hubert Davis, Montross' teammate at UNC, commented on his emotions during the moment of silence:
""Very sad, very hard. Having lost my mother at a young age, you know the road ahead for Eric's wife and his children. And every day, it gets worse. So my heart goes out to their family.""- Hubert Davis, on the Montross tribute
All in all, very tastefully done by UNC. RIP Eric Montross and condolences to the Montross family.
Second, the Dean Dome was buzzing. Despite the fact this was a late December non-conference game against the No. 339 team on KenPom, the fans showed out. It's difficult to say how much the Montross tribute played a role in the noticeably high attendance, but in any case, the Tar Heel faithful were fully invested from the opening tip to the final buzzer. It made for an incredible environment even despite the major on-court imbalance.
Hubert Davis' squad seemed to feed off the energy in the arena, shooting 56.2% from the field, 42.3% from three, and 85.7% from the line. Six Tar Heels finished with 10 or more points, and 105 points is the highest single-game total registered by UNC Basketball since a 113-point performance against NC State back on February 5, 2019.
With the win, the Tar Heels improve to 9-3 on the season. Here are three takeaways from their final tuneup before ACC play.
1. RJ Davis = All-American?
Senior guard RJ Davis turned in a stellar performance against Charleston Southern, finishing with 20 points and 10 assists while shooting 7-13 from the field and 3-6 from three-point range. This game marked his eighth consecutive contest with 20 or more points as well as his first career double-double of points and assists. Davis also became the first Tar Heel in program history to log a game with 20 points, 10 assists, five steals, and zero turnovers.
Davis' play this season has some publications naming him to their midseason All-American teams, a fact which Davis downplayed following the game:
Entering conference play, RJ Davis will look to make an All-ACC team for the first time after earning All-ACC Honorable Mention a season ago. If he keeps up his excellent play, there may be even more presitigous national honors coming his way.
2. Career Night for Jalen Washington
Sophomore forward Jalen Washington had himself a night as well, tallying 17 points and seven rebounds, both career highs. He far exceeded his season averages of 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game and led the way for UNC's 43 bench points.
Washington flashed two-way stretch potential with a pair of made threes and a pair of blocks amid a 7-9 shooting night. He can become a dynamic weapon for UNC Basketball if he continues to develop, especially as the program looks ahead to the departure of frontcourt mainstay Armando Bacot. His production versus CSU was a promising sign, but it remains to be seen whether Washington will become a bigger factor in the Tar Heel rotation this season. He has seen action in all 12 of UNC's games thus far, but ranks ninth on the team at just 9.2 minutes per game.
3. Hubert Davis' Lineup Experiments
A less competitive contest afforded Hubert Davis the luxury to try out some new lineups. His experimental rotations looked disjointed at times but at least provided a general idea of who can run together and who cannot. Postgame, Davis referenced the flexibility he has being able to throw multiple ball handlers on the floor at once between RJ Davis, Elliot Cadeau, and Seth Trimble.
Davis also discussed putting Jalen Washington and Armando Bacot on the floor together, something he had tried in practice but not in a game until he did so against Charleston Southern.
""In practice lately, we've been playing [Jalen Washington] and Armando together, and we had them out there tonight. They're two bigs, but they're different. It gives us a bigger and different look, it helps us in terms of rebounding, and I'm really happy that [Jalen] had a great game tonight.""- Hubert Davis, on UNC's frontcourt
There didn't seem to be any obvious issues with Washington and Bacot sharing the court, especially given the former's ability to stretch the floor. Hubert Davis apparently liked what he saw, so this may be a look we continue to see throughout the season.
The Tar Heels will open ACC play visiting Pittsburgh on January 2 with tipoff at 7 PM EST.