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Heel Tough Blog: Battle 4 Atlantis- Northern Iowa Recap

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Kevin Jairaj- USA Today Sports

The Tar Heels got their three-day stay in the Bahamas at the Battle 4 Atlantis underway on Wednesday afternoon as they took on Ben Jacobsen and the Northern Iowa Panthers.

It was a slow start for the Tar Heels, as they fell behind 10-2 in the four minutes of the game. While the Tar Heels would cut into the lead and eventually take a 27-25 lead, Northern Iowa’s hot shooting had them leading by six at halftime. The Panthers shot 60% from the field, with most of the production coming from driving the ball inside. On the other end of the floor, Carolina shot just 33.3% including just 3-13 from deep despite having some really good looks, especially behind the arc.

The Tar Heels came out of the gate hot to begin the second with an 8-0 run in the first two minutes of the half and extended it to a 34-8 run that allowed the team to go from down six to up 22. A big part of that was Carolina catching fire from the field, especially beyond the arc. A team that had hit just 21 shots from three in the first seven halves of the season, hit nine of their twelve three-point attempts in the second half. Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan both stepped up, combining for 22 points and six three points, while R.J. Davis added three big three-point makes of his own. Hopefully this half of basketball is what this team needs to start consistently hitting outside shots and open up the driving lanes again.

Carolina also cranked things up in the second half on the defensive end of the floor. After allowing zero points in the first nine minutes of the second half last Friday against UC-Riverside, the team allowed just eight in the first ten minutes of the half to the Panthers. Ben Jacobsen’s squad shot just 32% in the second half thanks to the Tar Heels' ability to take away the dribble drive that was so present early in the game. 

The Tar Heels swarming defense at times in the first half and throughout the second was a big reason that they were able to force 17 Northern Iowa turnovers. Four of them came on shot clock violations where Carolina’s full and half-court pressure was simply too much for the Panthers to handle. The Tar Heels blocked nine shots as well, including three apiece for Armando Bacot and Cormac Ryan. There were a lot of guys that stepped on that end of the floor in that second half, but the star of the day was Jae’lyn Withers, whose length and versatility really bothered them all day.

Ingram finished the game as the team’s leading scorer and leading rebounder with 16 points and 10 rebounds, his sixth career double-double and first as a Tar Heel. Ryan finished as the second-leading scorer with 15, all but two of which came in the second half. That was sorely needed with Armando Bacot having his quietest game of the season (10 pts, 8 rebs) and R.J. Davis not exactly having his best game either (13 pts, 4-11 FG).

While it may not have been the most comfortable game that we have ever seen the Tar Heels play, this was their best win of the season. The team was able to navigate a rough first half to take down a Northern Iowa team that was picked second in the preseason Missouri Valley Conference standings, which is once again set to be one of, if not the best mid-major conference in the sport this season. The hope is that the team can carry over the second-half performance into tomorrow’s game with the winner of Texas Tech and Villanova.



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