CHAPEL HILL, N.C. ––RJ Davis has a tattoo of a small rocket ship on his inner wrist and last night he soared to a 36-point career-high as he led North Carolina to a 85-64 win at the Smith Center. Davis is showing no signs of slowing down and for the 13th straight game, he’s led the scoring drive for the Tar Heels.
“I was just telling myself that I needed to go out there and play Carolina basketball, and to do what I know and what I’ve been practicing,” Davis said after the game.
While the Deacs tested UNC in the first half, Davis put up 23 points in the second – crushing a multitude of records in the process.
It was the third most points by a Tar Heel in the Smith Center since Tyler Hansborough back in 2008 and most by a Tar Heel since Brice Johnson put up 39 at Florida State in 2016. The accolades go on. Davis was also the first Tar Heel to score 30 or more points and have zero turnovers since Justin Jackson did it against Kentucky also in 2016.
While he didn’t know the specifics of his line, he knew that he had a 30-piece and that he was hungry for more.
“I told Elliot I need 2 more points at least,” Davis said. “He told me ‘you better get 32,’ I said I’m tryna get 40.”
While head coach Hubert Davis subbed him before he could accomplish the feat, the two shared a heartfelt embrace as he exited the game to a standing ovation from the fans and his teammates.
“I’ve known RJ for six years, and there’s a relationship there for a long time,” Hubert Davis said. “You see the growth not only on the court, but off the court. It just brings a lot of joy to coach to have a front row seat to be able to see that.”
“It is nothing better to watch the players, you see all the hard work and the effort in the preparation,” he continued. “To see it come out in a game, it’s the feeling of seeing your kids do something and do something well and have a smile on their face. And it’s just a really nice moment.”
With 44.6 seconds remaining, RJ finished 14-of-23 from the field. Four minutes into the second half, he broke the 3-point scoring drought and moments later off a fastbreak, he scored another one from deep to take the Heels to a six point lead.
He worked well with Elliot Cadeau, who knocked in 14 points and three assists. The freshman guard’s game seems to be maturing and his increasing scoring efficiency couples well with his ingrained defensive awareness.
Opponents often find themselves tripped up when facing Cadeau. His ability to spin and swerve into the opposite direction is recognized among Tar Heel fans as a unique, unselfish component of his game. But last night they got a taste of his offensive talent where he shot a season-high 14 shots (7-of-14 FG) and looked the most confident he’s looked since arriving in Chapel Hill.
“Elliot’s great,” RJ Davis said. “He’s a great playmaker, great teammate to play with and always looking to find you. That chemistry that me and him built along the way, I know he’s gonna look for me and vice versa. I love playing with him.”
For the senior guard, it was the best scoring output of his career and undoubtedly one of the most prolific nights he’s had at Dean Dome. His numbers speak for themselves and his growth and efficiency with the ball has guided him straight to ACC Player of the Year. The title is his, if another player doesn’t emerge soon because players like RJ Davis are a rarity.
North Carolina moved to 16-3 on the season (8-0 ACC) with the win and will travel down to Tallahassee, Fla. on Friday to face the Seminoles the following afternoon on Jan. 27.