CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — No. 19 North Carolina didn’t want any extra stress, and the two most experienced players in Tar Heels uniforms made sure there was a comfortable conclusion Sunday.
Armando Bacot’s 22-point, 20-rebound effort and RJ Davis’ 22 points led North Carolina to a 90-68 win over Lehigh.
“Us being veterans and experiencing success and also going through those hardship games, we just have to pull guys along with us,” Davis said.
Harrison Ingram added 14 points for the Tar Heels, who broke away after Lehigh came within three points about seven minutes into the second half. North Carolina (2-0) outscored the Mountain Hawks 23-3 on free throws.
Bacot produced the third game of his career with 20-20 numbers, reaching the 20-rebound mark for the seventh time. He sat out the last four minutes.
“It is what is required and needed to be the best we can be,” coach Hubert Davis said of Bacot’s production. “There’s a sense of urgency that I haven’t seen in him.”
Keith Higgins Jr. scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half and Tyler Whitney-Sidney had 10 points for Lehigh (0-3).
“I thought our team competed to get ourselves in a competitive situation,” Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. “Being down three against a very good team is a promising sign. … But unfortunately, it felt like Carolina just kind of overpowered us.”
North Carolina’s 43-34 halftime lead shrunk to 53-50, but seven fouls by the Mountain Hawks in less than seven minutes to open the second half meant a steady diet of free throws for the Tar Heels. Two foul shots by RJ Davis began a 9-0 run.
“The calmness comes from having a guy like RJ out on the floor,” Hubert Davis said.
Bacot said the team’s response was appropriate.
“I think that spoke to the maturity of our team to be able to execute the plan and bring it up a notch,” Bacot said.
Bacot converted two three-point plays in the first 12 minutes. He ended up with six offensive rebounds, giving the fifth-year player 487 for his career and setting the school record. He passed Tyler Hansbrough (482).
After leading 14-13, Lehigh went more than seven minutes without a field goal. When Higgins snapped the drought with a 3-pointer, the Mountain Hawks closed within 27-18. Davis responded with two 3s in a 36-second span.
Bacot had first-half totals of 12 points and 12 rebounds for his 70th career double-double. Higgins made six of his team’s 12 first-half field goals.
“They did a good job of trying to limit Keith’s touches,” Reed said. “It generated opportunities for some other guys because he was commanding so much attention. I think a lot our guys will make more of those plays moving forward.”
Lehigh lost Friday night at Penn State and traveled to Maryland afterward. The Mountain Hawks practiced Saturday at Towson before flying to North Carolina to complete a challenging opening week of the season.
Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks need more sources of offense after Higgins generated the most production in consecutive games. Lehigh was trying to defeat an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since stunning Duke in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels have relied heavily on Bacot in the first two games as he has been a force in the lane. Also like in the opener vs. Radford, the Tar Heels didn’t gain much of a comfortable margin until a strong second-half stretch.
Lehigh: Thursday night vs. Division III Oneonta (N.Y.) State
North Carolina: Friday night vs. UC Riverside
Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here ___ AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball