• Fri. Nov 25th, 2022

UNC-Basketball Escapes Portland With Tournament Victory From Phil Knight


North Carolina guard Seth Trimble (right) passes the ball on to Portland guard Juan Sebastian Gorosito during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Phil Knight Invitational tournament Portland, Ore., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)


No. 1 North Carolina played Portland on Thursday to open the Phil Knight Invitational like it wasn’t about to hold that top spot for much longer.

Had the Tar Heels not played so unevenly in their first four games of the season, the 10 a.m. local game time at the Moda Center might have been a reasonable excuse for their lethargic play in spots. But this has been a pretty consistent pattern for Carolina.

The Heels (5-0) survived their Thanksgiving Day matinee with an 89-81 win. But they probably won’t come out of the weekend undefeated unless their execution improves.

“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing all year, just coming out, getting hit in the mouth and then having to fight back,” said UNC forward Leaky Black. “It’s just the same story in every game. We’re just coming out of this. We just have to find out.”

Carolina came into play, allowing his opponents to shoot just 29 percent from 3. The Pilots repulsed seven of their 16 first-half attempts, trailing just 40-38.

Portland took the lead early in the second half and kept it for most of the time until Leaky Black made a 3-pointer from the left corner from an RJ Davis assist top that gave UNC a 4:19 lead for a good 76-75 brought.

UNC coach Hubert Davis said he wasn’t at all surprised that Portland (4-3) pressed heels.

“It’s interesting that the position we’re in is what people expect it to be like,” Davis said. “And so we were supposed to get up at halftime at 8pm. We’re supposed to win every game by 30. No, we should compete and play hard and keep improving and see what kind of team we can become.”

The frustrating part for Davis is already knowing the answer. The heels were ranked #1 for a reason. Talent throughout the grid was readily on display on Thursday.

Junior guard Caleb Love wore the heels in the first half and scored 16 of his 23 points in 7-for-9 shooting from the field.

Northwestern transfer Pete Nance livened up the heels in the second half, hitting 20 of his career bests with 28 points. He also set a new career best by scoring five 3-pointers.

And when Carolina finally seemed to “get serious” on defense, she took over the game. Portland held a 64-63 lead and was efficient in their games after the timeout (ATO) all game long.

But the Heels were hard on their defense, calling switches and eventually Nance blocked an Alden Applewhite shot wide. Love then denied a Jack Perry forced 3-pointer when the shot clock ran out.

Although the Pilots started the second half with 9-of-15 shots from the field, UNC limited them to just 6-of-18 shots from that ball onwards.

“It’s bigger than wins and losses, I want us to compete consistently,” Davis said. “And in the first five games it was there for the half. It’s been there for a few moments, but it wasn’t there for a full 40 minutes on either end of the floor.”

leave script

Much of Davis’ frustration was directed at Carolina’s tendency to deviate from the scouting report. He didn’t say how often they did, but added that it was too often for his liking.

“We consistently did things throughout the game that we didn’t work on in practice,” Davis said. “…If you do that and deviate from the script, it’s not even successful. So I don’t understand. And that’s something I addressed and we’ll be better tomorrow.”

Bacot’s Doubles

UNC forward Armando Bacot played early as if he hadn’t quite woken up. Portland sent a double team almost every time he touched the paint, and Bacot didn’t respond well.

He had a turnover trying to get out of it. The ball was taken from him. He also had a turnover where he dribbled off his foot.

“When I saw a movie last year, they did a lot of double-middle, so I was trying to be quick and get to the baseline,” said Bacot, who finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds. “It wasn’t until the third turnover that I realized they were coming from the baseline. So that kind of scared me off. But other guys coming up and scoring goals is what’s great about having a team with a lot of talented players.”

‘Be a guy’

Nance scored in double figures for Carolina for the third straight game. And in Nance fashion, he said in his post-game comments, “All credit goes to my teammates” for finding him in his seats.

Davis instead attributed Nance’s aggressiveness.

“One of the conversations — and I’ve had that with him a few times — is that he’s such a nice kid that he wants to fit in,” Davis said. “And I tried to tell him how you fit in, be a guy. Don’t worry about, ‘You’re the new guy on the block.’ We didn’t recruit you to roleplay, we recruited you to be what you did today.”

This story was originally published Nov 24, 2022 3:12 p.m.

Profile picture of CL Brown

CL Brown reports on the University of North Carolina for The News & Observer. Brown brings more than two decades of reporting experience, including stints as a beat writer at Indiana University and the University of Louisville. After a long stint with the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he received an APSE award, he had stints at ESPN.com, The Athletic and even attempted to run his own website, clbrownhoops.com.