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Off the cuff: With 15 minutes left in the season and home opener, the Tar Heels led Radford by just a point at 56-55.

Over the next eight minutes, Carolina outscored the visitors 18-6 with six different Tar Heels scoring. A familiar face, R.J. Davis, gave the Heels their first double-digit lead with a step-back 20 footer while newcomer Cormac Ryan put Carolina in control at 74-61 with a three from the right side with just over seven minutes left.

Crowd pleasers over the last few minutes of the game included a powerful rebound follow by sophomore Jalen Washington, an Elliott Cadeau dish to Washington for a dunk and a driving layup down the lane from the top of the key by Cadeau.

Carolina's hounding defense in the second half opened the game up even though the team was strong offensively the whole way except for a stretch in the first half when the Heels committed six turnovers, ending with eight at the half and 11 for the game.

"We did a good job making the easy plays and getting the shots we wanted," Coach Davis said.

Bacot attributed the close first half to the Tar Heels being "super excited and amped up" adding that the team settled down in the second half.

Bacot, who has dropped 10-15 pounds over last year's playing weight, said that the team trusts each other and worries about the team not themselves.

The Tar Heels averaged the fewest assists per game last year in modern history records at about 12. On this night there were 18 assists.

Carolina 86, Highlanders 70
Revamped Heels wear down Radford

(Photo by UNC Sports Information)

The North Carolina team, even with a sixth-year player, looks much different than a year ago and any year but the result of the first game was the same. For the 19th year in a row, the Tar Heels won their season opener - this time against a gritty Radford team, 86-70. (11/6)

Eleven players saw action, with four scoring in double figures led by mainstay Armando Bacot scoring 25 points and hauling in 13 rebounds.

The depth seemed to wear down the Highlanders, who shot 50 percent in the first half and led three on several occasions before trailing 46-41 at the half.

"I felt like we started to wear them down in the second half as we kept bringing in fresh guys," Coach Hubert Davis said, adding that he used multiple lineups with everyone who played contributing. "The depth and versatility of this group is to our advantage. I'm happy with the production off the bench."

That's a change from last year when Coach Davis stuck to core players much of the year, which is likely one reason so many players transferred after the 2022-2023 season when the Heels went 20-13 but failed to make the NCAA Tournament after being a preseason favorite.

"We have so many talented guys this year," Bacot said after the game. "We need a lot of guys to step up for us."

Two new starters who stepped up included Cormac Ryan, the Notre Dame transfer, who scored 13 and Harrison Ingram, the Stanford transfer, who scored 12. Veteran R.J. Davis added 12.

Radford went toe to toe with the Heels in the first half, up 41-38 late in the first half. But Carolina reeled off eight straight points in the last minute and a half. Ryan sank four free throws and picked up a steal and assist to Ingram during the stretch. Davis scored on a driving layup to put the Heels up 46-41.

The biggest lead in the first half was eight points at 20-12 following a Ryan three from the right side while the biggest lead of the game was 17 points at 85-68 late in the game when freshman Elliott Cadeau drove the lane for a left-handed layup.

The Tar Heels shot 52.5 percent from the field for the game, compared to 42.4 percent for the Highlanders as Carolina locked down defensively in the second half.

Radford, 0-1, was led by Kenyon Giles and DaQuan Smith who each scored 18 points.

The Tar Heels, 1-0, host Lehigh on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Box score

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