CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) No. 7 North Carolina needed to get things right and so the Tar Heels made good use of veterans Armando Bacot and RJ Davis on Saturday.

Bacot had 25 points and 12 rebounds and Davis scored 20 points as North Carolina led most of the way in a 96-81 victory against Virginia Tech.

Cormac Ryan scored 16 and Harrison Ingram added 12 points and 17 rebounds for the Tar Heels (20-6, 12-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who lost three of their previous five games.

“We also kind of wanted to make a statement again,” Davis said. “We were dialed in at both ends of the court.”

MJ Collins had 18 points and reserve Mylyjael Poteat scored 15 to lead Virginia Tech (14-11, 6-8), which lost for the fourth time in five games. Tyler Nickel had 14 points against his former team and Lynn Kidd and Hunter Cattoor added 11 points apiece.

Bacot feasted against the Hokies’ foul-plagued front line on the way to shooting 11 for 16 from the field as part of the team’s 51.5% shooting. He notched 19 second-half points.

“All three of their bigs had fouls and we have Armando,” Ingram said of the advantage in the post.

Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said the Hokies knew to pay attention to the Tar Heels’ standout duo.

“Armando Bacot has been a good player in this league for a long time and so has RJ Davis,” Young said. “We had a good plan, and those two guys were better than our plan.”

The Tar Heels’ 54 points in the paint marked the team’s second-highest total of the season.

“We talked about getting back to that, and so that was a huge advantage for us and Armando played fantastically,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “We knew we wanted to dominate points in the paint.”

Davis scored five straight points after Virginia Tech pulled within 79-72.

“They responded really well,” Nickel said. “That shows a mature team.”

Virginia Tech shot 41.8% from the field, going 1 for 12 on second-half 3-point shots. Those misfires thwarted much of a chance for a comeback.

“You’d better score with them because they’re going to score,” Young said.

The Tar Heels matched the most points allowed in the first half (44) by Virginia Tech this season with more than three minutes left before the break on the way to a 50-39 halftime lead.

An early 10-0 run for the Tar Heels helped set the tone. North Carolina ended up with a 43-31 rebounding edge.


Nickel, a reserve guard who played last season as a North Carolina freshman, hit his first two shots on 3-point attempts and finished with four 3s. … The Hokies and Tar Heels hadn’t met since December 2022 and this was the lone scheduled meeting this season. … Saturday’s result ended Virginia Tech’s two-game win streak in the series.


Virginia Tech: The Hokies, who gave up a season-high point total, made a couple of mini-rallies in the second half, but those weren’t enough to apply pressure on the Tar Heels. The Hokies have been outrebounded in four of their last five games.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels, who maintained a half-game lead in the ACC, needed a get-well outing and this certainly qualified for a team that had risen to as high as No. 3 in the rankings.


Virginia Tech: Hosts No. 21 Virginia on Monday night.

North Carolina: Visits Virginia on Feb. 24.


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