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No. 9 North Carolina looks to light up Charleston Southern

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No. 9 North Carolina has experienced plenty since last playing a home game earlier this month.

The Tar Heels, who have been off since Dec. 20, will look to tune up for their upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference schedule with a nonconference clash against Charleston Southern on Friday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.

North Carolina (8-3) had three big-time contests this month, going to New York and falling to UConn, traveling to Atlanta and coming up short versus Kentucky, and then stopping in Charlotte for a victory against previously undefeated Oklahoma.

The difference for the Tar Heels came on the defensive end in their most recent game.

“Our offense is really good, but where we’re lacking is defense,” guard RJ Davis said. “Overall, we were making the defensive plays that needed to be made, especially in crucial times.”

Davis has led North Carolina in scoring in seven consecutive games. His 183 points in a seven-game span is the most for a Tar Heel in 16 seasons.

“This stretch of basketball he has been playing is some of the best basketball I’ve seen,” Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot said of Davis, who was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Week for the second time this season.

For Davis, the offensive surge has been rewarding.

“I think I’ve been playing with a chip on my shoulder my whole life,” Davis said.

The Tar Heels played their only other home game this month by winning their ACC opener with a big comeback against Florida State on Dec. 2.

Charleston Southern (4-8) snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating visiting Kentucky Christian 103-79 on Dec. 21 before taking a holiday break ahead of the game in Chapel Hill. DJ Patrick and RJ Johnson both had 21 points versus the Knights.

The Buccaneers have gone 2-3 under interim coach Saah Nimley since Barclay Radebaugh stepped down as coach at the end of November.

So there will be a different look for Charleston Southern from when the team visited ACC members North Carolina State and Wake Forest in November. The Christmas break probably came at a good time.

“It has been a lot for all of us,” Nimley said. “I’m super-proud of them. I hope they’re rejuvenated when they get back because we got a lot of work to do.”

The Buccaneers’ only victory against a Division I team this season was a 66-64 decision against South Carolina State on Dec. 2. With the grind of the early schedule and the coaching change, there has been plenty for the players to digest.

“I feel like it’s great to get a quick little reset and get our minds back right,” Charleston Southern junior forward Taje Kelly said of the layoff.

Then it’s right back at it with the toughest game on the schedule.

“We still have an uphill battle with UNC coming up, yeah, they’re pretty good,” Nimley said. “It’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to prepare and we’re going to play our game and we’re going to play super hard and everything else will figure itself out.”

This will be the Buccaneers’ final game before beginning Big South Conference play.

The Tar Heels are undefeated in non-conference home games in three seasons under coach Hubert Davis.

–Field Level Media

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