UNC guard R.J. Davis’ teammates have started joking around with him again.
Things were all serious after he took an elbow to the face while drawing a charge on Judah Mintz in the closing seconds of the Tar Heels’ win at Syracuse last week, helping to seal a 72-68 win. The collision left blood on the court, Davis’ eye swelled and eventually he formed a black eye during the healing process.
UNC coach Hubert Davis said the junior received X-rays to make sure there were no broken bones or any other damage.
“It was swollen after the game, he couldn’t see out of one eye,” Hubert Davis said. “…He probably still will have a black eye on Wednesday night, but just the soreness of getting hit around it, that was the main issue and the swelling and all of that is all that is gone.”
It healed enough that R.J. Davis even posted self-deprecating humor on Instagram, showing a sequence of pictures from the game along with one of SpongeBob SquarePants with a black eye.
“Obviously, we’ve tried to make sure he was good, but once we realized that and he started going through the recovery process, it was all jokes after that,” backcourt mate Caleb Love said. “We’ve been clowning him since it happened.”
R.J. Davis will likely still have that mark when the Heels face Pitt on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Dean E. Smith Center. The Panthers have bullied the Heels of late, winning four of the past five meetings, including last year in Chapel Hill.
Carolina (15-6, 7-3 ACC) will try to avenge its 76-74 loss to the Panthers (15-7, 8-3) from Dec. 30 in which it squandered a nine-point lead in the second half. That’s why the chances of UNC looking ahead to Saturday’s game at rival Duke are slim.
The Heels probably still won’t be at full strength. Hubert Davis said forward Puff Johnson, who has missed the past two games with knee soreness, was limited in practice on Monday and that he’d be “very surprised” if Johnson played on Wednesday.
Johnson, a Moon Township, Pa., native whose father, Gilbert, played for the Panthers from 1988-90, only played two minutes in the first meeting this season.
Pitt, along with first-place Clemson, have been two of the more surprising teams in the ACC this season. The Panthers are a half game ahead of UNC for third place in the standings.
They won in December partly because Carolina could not keep them out of the lane. Pitt outscored UNC 42-26 in points in the paint. Charlotte native Jamarius Burton led the charge by scoring a career-high 31 points on 14-for-17 shooting from the field. The most telling stat in Burton’s numbers was that he did not make a 3-pointer and only scored three points from free throws.
Hubert Davis said beating the Panthers will take more than just stopping Burton. They have a number of good 3-point shooters including Greg Elliott (40.7 percent) and Blake Hinson (38.3 percent) who light opponents up when they penetrate and pass back out to the perimeter.
“They’re an older, more experienced team and they’ve been through it individually,” Davis said. “They’re a hardened, tough team that doesn’t get shaken and that’s one of the many reasons why they’re having such a such a good year this season.”
Tipoff time + TV channel for Wednesday’s game
The game will start at noon on Wednesday and will air on ACC Network.
How to stream UNC vs Pitt game online
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If your preferred method of watching games involves streaming, there are options for that, too.
ACC Network is available on fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV and YouTubeTV. Or the game can be viewed here for subscribers to the ESPN+ app.
Game day details: UNC vs Pitt
Teams: UNC Tar Heels vs. Pitt Panthers
Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill.
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 1
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: ACC Network
Series history: Carolina leads the series 15-7. However, the Panthers have won four of the past five games, including a 76-74 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 30.