CHAPEL HILL — Whether definitive answers or merely suggestions, North Carolina provided some clues Friday night on how new men’s basketball coach Hubert Davis might use player combinations and rotations.
Dawson Garcia supplied 17 points and Armando Bacot and Brady Manek provided 16 points apiece as the No. 19 Tar Heels cruised to an 83-55 victory against Division II Elizabeth City State in an exhibition game at the Smith Center
Garcia, the Marquette transfer, and Bacot were joined in the starting lineup by RJ Davis, Caleb Love and Kerwin Walton. That three-guard group, with the power forward Bacot working in the post, included neither senior Leaky Black, a two-year starter under the legendary Roy Williams, nor the graduate transfer Manek, a four-year starter at Oklahoma before coming on board at North Carolina.
“Just because they came off the bench (Friday night) doesn’t mean they’re going to come off the bench on Tuesday or next Friday,” Hubert Davis said. “I told them before that this is a game and we’re approaching it as a game, but I also told them that it’s an evaluation period from the standpoint of we’re trying different matchups and lineups to see what works best for us.”
Davis pointed out Garcia didn’t participate in the Tar Heels’ closed scrimmage Oct. 23 at Florida, after contracting a case of food poisoning. So Davis said he wanted to put Garcia “in a situation to get out there and allow him to get in a little bit of a rhythm” in the exhibition game against Elizabeth City State.
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Manek and Virginia transfer Justin McKoy were the first subs Davis used off the bench here Friday night. Black didn’t check in until the 11:44 mark of the first half, after more than eight minutes of game time had elapsed.
“I could see Brady starting, I could see Leaky starting,” Davis said. “One of the great things about Leaky and Brady is, they care about the right things. They don’t care about starting. They just want to play and they want to be in at the end of the game. And as well as they played (Friday night), they’re going to play a lot. And they’re going to be in at the end of the game.”
Vince Carter, the former North Carolina great, looked on from a courtside seat Friday night. The Tar Heels’ new era under Davis begins in an official capacity with Tuesday night’s season opener against visiting Loyola (Md.).
“I feel like the sky’s the limit for us,” Bacot said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can do a bunch of different stuff.”
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RJ Davis and Love also reached double digits in scoring during Friday night’s exhibition, chipping in 12 points and 10 points, respectively. The sophomore pair, which all but shared the Tar Heels’ point guard duties last season as freshmen, combined on 10 assists and five turnovers.
“I really felt like in the second half, both of them settled down,” Hubert Davis said of Love and RJ Davis, who shot just 1-for-8 from the field during the first half. “This is the first game that they’ve played in the Smith Center with so many fans, and there’s a little bit of nervousness in that. I think it took them to the second half for both of them individually to kind of settle down. I thought they played much better in the second half on both ends of the floor.”
Zaccheus Hobbs topped Elizabeth City State with 16 points, though he went 6-for-18 from the field, including 3-for-11 from 3-point range. D’Andre Barrett’s jumper that beat the first-half horn trimmed North Carolina’s lead to 43-32 at halftime.
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The Tar Heels opened the second half by pumping in 15 straight points, a run capped by Manek’s catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the corner off a pass from Anthony Harris.
North Carolina ranked as one of the least productive teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference from beyond the 3-point arc across the last two seasons. The Tar Heels hit nine 3s against Elizabeth City State, with the 6-foot-11 Garcia (2-for-4 from downtown) and the 6-9 Manek (2-for-5) floating and stretching the floor.
“It’s great to have them on the floor,” Love said, “because they can open the floor up for me and my teammates.”
The 6-10 Bacot even got into the act. He knocked down his only 3-point attempt from straight on at the top of the key, moving North Carolina’s lead to 61-35 in the second half. Bacot said when that shot connected he caught a look and big grin from the retired Williams, seated in the crowd.
Earlier in the week, Elizabeth City State suffered an 87-68 exhibition loss at North Carolina State. The Vikings managed to out-rebound the Wolfpack (by 38-35) and shoot better from the field (45.5 percent to N.C. State’s 44.1 percent) that night in Raleigh.
Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at [email protected] or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Times-News: UNC basketball: Hubert Davis offers clues on lineup in exhibition win