No. 1 North Carolina advanced in the Phil Knight Invitational on Thursday with a slim victory over Portland. Next up, the Tar Heels will face their toughest opponent so far this season, meeting Iowa State on Friday afternoon in Portland, Ore.
The Cyclones (4-0) will be the first opponent from a major conference that the Tar Heels (5-0) have faced this season. North Carolina needed a late run Thursday to overcome a five-point deficit in the second half to beat the Portland Pilots 89-81.
UNC was powered by a career-best-tying 28 points from Northwestern transfer Pete Nance. He made a career-best five 3-pointers, and the Heels shot a season-best 50 percent from behind the arc as a team.
“The thing that I was really happy about Pete (Thursday) is I felt like Pete was really aggressive,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “One of the conversations, and I’ve had this with him a number of times, is he’s such a nice kid (and) he wants to fit in. And I try to tell them the way you fit in is to be a dude.
“And don’t worry about ‘You’re the new guy on the block.’ Like, we didn’t recruit you to be a role player. We recruited you to be what you did (Thursday). You step on people’s shoes and continue to be aggressive. And that’s the way, regardless of him scoring 28 points. That’s the way I want him to play moving forward.”
UNC also got a double-double from Armando Bacot (11 points, 13 rebounds) and 23 points from Caleb Love.
What hurt the Tar Heels against Portland was their poor free-throw shooting. UNC missed 10 free throws and shot just 61.5 percent at the line. That’s UNC’s worst mark from the free-throw line since a win over Florida State in February.
UNC’s bench was also outscored 25-3 by Portland.
“When we needed to make winning plays, we were able to do that, but not at the consistent rate that you need to in order to have success,” Davis said. “And that’s the thing that I was frustrated with. We were doing things consistently throughout the game that we haven’t worked on at practice.”
The Cyclones are coming off a tight win, too. Iowa State beat Villanova 81-79 in overtime on Thursday. Leading the way was Gabe Kalscheur, who sank five 3-pointers on his way to 23 points. Osun Osunniyi added 17 points.
Kalscheur accounted for a large portion of Iowa State’s 37 bench points. In addition to his sharp shooting, the Cyclones were strong inside too, outscoring Villanova 40-16 in the paint. Iowa State also scored 23 points off 18 Villanova turnovers.
“To start the game, loved their energy. To start the half, loved their energy. Start of overtime, loved their energy,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “A great team win. Lot of guys had big contributions.”
North Carolina is the first ranked opponent Iowa State will face this season.
“When we get back to the hotel, we’ll immediately meet, start game-planning,” Otzelberger said. “Probably at some point later (Thursday) evening, we’ll show our guys some film (of North Carolina) and make sure before they go to bed (Thursday night) that they know what our plan is going to be going into that game.”
Iowa State has four players averaging double digits in scoring. Jaren Holmes leads the way with 16.8 points per game. He had 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting on Thursday.
–Field Level Media