Chapel Hill, N.C.
Number 19 North Carolina did not desire any additional pressure, and the two most seasoned athletes in Tar Heels attire ensured a relaxed finale on Sunday.
North Carolina defeated Lehigh 90-68, with Armando Bacot scoring 22 points and grabbing 20 rebounds, while RJ Davis contributed 22 points.
“We, as veterans, have achieved success and have also faced difficult challenges. It is our responsibility to motivate and guide our teammates in the same direction,” stated Davis.
Harrison Ingram contributed 14 points to the Tar Heels’ score as they pulled ahead when Lehigh closed the gap to just three points roughly seven minutes into the second half. North Carolina (2-0) dominated the Mountain Hawks on free throws, outscoring them 23-3.
Bacot achieved a personal best in his third game, recording 20 points and 20 rebounds. He has reached the 20-rebound mark a total of seven times. He was substituted out for the final four minutes of the game.
Coach Hubert Davis stated that Bacot’s production is necessary for us to reach our full potential. He also noted a newfound sense of urgency in Bacot.
In the first half, Keith Higgins Jr. earned 16 points, with 14 of them being scored. Tyler Whitney-Sidney also contributed 10 points for Lehigh (0-3).
“Our team actively fought to put ourselves in a competitive position,” stated Lehigh coach Brett Reed. “Being behind by three points against a strong team is a positive sign. However, it seemed as though Carolina simply outmatched us.”
The Tar Heels maintained a 43-34 lead over the Mountain Hawks at halftime, but it was reduced to 53-50 in the second half. However, the Mountain Hawks committed seven fouls in under seven minutes, resulting in numerous free throw opportunities for the Tar Heels. This led to a 9-0 scoring streak, starting with two successful shots by RJ Davis.
Hubert Davis explained that having RJ on the court was a source of tranquility.
Bacot stated that the team’s reaction was suitable.
Bacot expressed that our team’s ability to carry out the plan and elevate it showed our maturity.
Bacot successfully completed two three-point plays within the first 12 minutes of the game. He ultimately accumulated six offensive rebounds, bringing his career total to 487 and breaking the school record previously held by Tyler Hansbrough (482).
Lehigh held a 14-13 lead but then went over seven minutes without scoring a field goal. However, when Higgins broke the drought with a 3-pointer, the Mountain Hawks were able to narrow the gap to 27-18. In quick succession, Davis hit two 3-pointers to extend the lead.
In the first half, Bacot scored a total of 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, earning his 70th double-double in his career. Higgins contributed to his team’s 12 first-half field goals by making six of them.
Reed praised the team’s efforts to restrict Keith’s involvement, which led to other players having more chances to shine. Moving forward, Reed believes that more of the team will capitalize on those opportunities.
After losing to Penn State on Friday night, Lehigh then traveled to Maryland. On Saturday, the team practiced at Towson before flying to North Carolina, concluding a demanding first week of the season.
Lehigh’s Mountain Hawks require additional means of scoring as Higgins was the primary contributor in back-to-back matches. Lehigh attempted to beat an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent for the first time since their surprising victory over Duke in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The University of North Carolina’s basketball team has heavily relied on Bacot in their first two games due to his dominance in the lane. Similar to their first game against Radford, the Tar Heels did not establish a significant lead until a strong performance in the second half.
Lehigh: Thursday night vs. Division III Oneonta (N.Y.) State
On Friday night, the North Carolina team will be facing off against UC Riverside.