Our Clients:

Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Mar 26, 2024 6:37 pm

Alabama’s defense tasked with containing RJ Davis, UNC

Bacot Davis North Carolina

LOS ANGELES — Hubert Davis’ three seasons as head coach at North Carolina have made for one wild ride.

North Carolina reached the national championship game in Davis’ first season in 2021-22 after he replaced three-time national title winner Roy Williams, but the Tar Heels missed the tournament altogether a year ago.

Now, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s West Region finds itself two wins shy of the Final Four when it faces No. 4 Alabama in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.

North Carolina (29-7) has won 10 of its last 11 games after its 85-69 defeat of Michigan State on Sunday in the second round.

“The big picture for Coach Davis is what he brings out of the guys,” RJ Davis said following the win. “What that is is the passion and fire and competitive spirit to go out there each game and each practice to play to the best of our abilities. When you have a coach like that, I think you can go a long way.”

The Tar Heels come to Los Angeles aiming for their second Final Four under Hubert Davis and fourth since 2016.

This year’s North Carolina lineup leans heavily on veterans who were part of the national runner-up roster two seasons ago, with RJ Davis averaging 21.3 points per game and Armando Bacot producing a double-double average of 14.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

The consensus first-team All-American Davis scored a total of 42 points in North Carolina’s first two NCAA Tournament games, the former in a 90-62 romp of 16th-seeded Wagner.

The second-round defeat of Michigan State saw the Tar Heels come out on the right side of a roller-coaster game, reflective of the last few seasons. North Carolina rallied from a 12-point deficit against the Spartans.

“When it comes to times like this and we go down 12, just knowing that our coaches believe in us, but also are hard on us, it just makes a huge difference,” Bacot said.

The Tar Heels will try to keep the high going against an Alabama team that reached the Sweet 16 for the third time in four seasons but is looking to secure its first Elite Eight appearance since 2004.

The Crimson Tide (23-11) limped into the NCAA Tournament having gone 2-4 over their last six games before facing No. 13 seed Charleston last Friday.

With its 109-96 win in the first round, followed by pulling away from No. 12 seed Grand Canyon 72-61 at the end of a raucous second-round matchup, Alabama put together its first winning streak since claiming three straight in Southeastern Conference play Feb. 10-21.

The 61 points to which the Crimson Tide defense limited Grand Canyon was the team’s best since January.

Alabama coach Nate Oats said the defensive effort from the second round is the identity he hopes to see the Crimson Tide carry over into Los Angeles.

“We lead the country in scoring (90.7 ppg), we play fast, our offense has been No. 1 in the country for a large part of the year, but we really try to build the program on toughness, blue collar,” Oats said. “It hasn’t been what we would like to see all the year.”

While Alabama’s offense features four scorers averaging at least 11 points per game, led by Mark Sears’ 21.5, the Crimson Tide have allowed 80.9 points per contest.

Oats credited freshman forward Mouhamed Dioubate, who averages just eight minutes per game, for igniting the defense against Grand Canyon. Dioubate’s play off the bench may be a factor for Alabama in countering North Carolina’s 81.8-ppg offense.

–Kyle Kensing, Field Level Media

You may also like

Thunder, Pelicans
Apr 25, 2024 12:28 am

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder rout Pelicans in Game 2

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 33 points and Chet Holmgren added 26 as the host Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 124-92 on Wednesday to take a 2-0 lead in…

celtics, heat
Apr 24, 2024 9:58 pm

Tyler Herro, Heat shoot down Celtics in Game 2

Tyler Herro sank six of Miami’s franchise-playoff-record 23 3-points as the Heat evened their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series with the Boston Celtics by earning a 111-101 road victory in…

lakers, nuggets
Apr 24, 2024 8:13 pm

Lakers eager to solve Nuggets in Game 3

The Los Angeles Lakers will at least return to the comfort of their home fans when they take on the defending champion Denver Nuggets on Thursday in Game 3 of…

More Basketball News

Thunder, Pelicans
Apr 25, 2024 12:28 am

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder rout Pelicans in Game 2

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 33 points and Chet Holmgren added 26 as the host Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 124-92 on Wednesday to take a 2-0 lead in…

celtics, heat
Apr 24, 2024 9:58 pm

Tyler Herro, Heat shoot down Celtics in Game 2

lakers, nuggets
Apr 24, 2024 8:13 pm

Lakers eager to solve Nuggets in Game 3

Naz Reid
Apr 24, 2024 7:27 pm

Timberwolves C Naz Reid named Sixth Man of Year

DiVincenzo
Apr 24, 2024 4:07 pm

Sixers have backs against wall entering Game 3 vs. Knicks

Read all
fb-post
advertisment
title-icon

Upcoming events

See all odds
Array