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North Carolina blitzes past Wake Forest halftime lead, wins by 21

North Carolina guard RJ Davis scored a career-high 36 points

Evan Harris/Blogger So Dear

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Following a 10-0 North Carolina first-half run, Wake Forest found a way to claw back into the game and manufacture a one-point lead entering the locker rooms. The Deacs, though, could not handle the Tar Heels’ next punch. North Carolina outscored Wake Forest 52-30 in the final 20 minutes en route to a 85-64 thumping.

“Carolina had a championship effort tonight, especially in the second half,” head coach Steve Forbes said postgame. “They’re one of the best teams in the country. And they played like it tonight.”

North Carolina guard RJ Davis had much to do with his team’s second-half surge — the ACC Player of the Year frontrunner finished the game with a career-high 36 points on 14-23 shooting. 23 points came in the second on eight field goals.

“RJ Davis is the best player in our league,” Forbes said.

“I feel like he just got good looks,” Hunter Sallis added. “He hit a couple in transition, was able to get downhill to his floater. We watched it in film. He makes those shots.”

Wake Forest’s game plan all season long against high-set picks is drop coverage, as Forbes noted postgame. North Carolina went to that look often, opening the mid-range floater for Davis.

“We blitzed them once or twice. We tried,” Forbes said “They set tough angles. [The] ones up high, we’re gonna drop those. The ones below the free-throw line, we wanted to blitz them or double, but we only got to it like one time because they’re fast.

“I knew [Davis would] make them. I was hoping he wouldn’t make that many.”

Wake Forest’s starting guards — Sallis, Cam Hildreth and Boopie Miller — finished the game 13-37 from the field. In the second half, those three hit just 22% of their attempts.

“They pressured the ball,” Sallis, who finished with a team-high 18 points, said. “They were a little bit more physical than us down the stretch. That really affected us getting into action.”

“Why did we have a hard time scoring,” Forbes later noted. “Because they’re an elite defensive team. This was a body-between game. They guard like we do schematically…they drop. They’re not coming off those shooters, and you’re gonna have to beat your man. Get in there and be physical…either get a shot or get a shot for somebody else. And we just couldn’t get by them.”

Additionally, not a single Wake Forest starter made a three-point shot. The Deacs finished 3-20 from behind the arc.

In the second half, North Carolina’s offensive output — 61.3% from the field — was predicated on Wake Forest’s misses on the other end.

“We told our team going into the game, Carolina needed to run at us,” Forbes said. “We could not run with them or be behind them. First half, I thought we did a really good job in defensive transition. Second half…that’s where the game was decided, was us missing shots and them getting out of defensive transition and getting easy baskets.

“That’s on us. No matter what happens on the offensive end, you got to get back and you got to guard the ball. You got to get matched up. We didn’t get matched up on time.”

To go with Davis’ performance, North Carolina also found success in the paint, scoring 48 points. Harrison Ingram took advantage of a height matchup with Hildreth at the three during certain stretches.

“He was a problem in the second half,” Forbes said. “They moved him to the three in one frame. He took advantage backing our guards down. He’s a really good player.”

Wake Forest now faces a week-plus break before its next game, an away matchup with Pitt. Reflecting on tonight’s loss, it’s a balancing act of recognizing truly how good North Carolina is and where the Deacs need to grow.

“We’re 13-6,” Forbes said. “Yeah, we didn’t want to come in here and get beat like that…You just gotta keep plugging. They will, they’re good guys…We’re gonna have to learn from it.”