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Heel Tough Blog: Battle 4 Atlantis- Villanova Recap

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Kevin Jairaj- USA Today Sports

The Tar Heels continued their three day stay in Nassau on Thursday when they took on the Villanova Wildcats for the first time since the 2016 national title game.

The first half showed just how evenly matched the two teams were. After trading punches for the first eleven minutes of the game, the Tar Heels would use a 13-0 run to take a nine point lead sparked by Cormac Ryan, who built off his second half on Wednesday. Villanova would immediately respond with a 10-0 run to retake the lead. The Tar Heels would close the half strong, though, with a tough make from the corner for R.J. Davis, giving them the two point advantage at halftime.

The Tar Heels had another strong start to a second half in this one, steadily building a nine point cushion over the first ten minutes of the half. Villanova would storm back, though, with a 10-0 run to tie the game and would turn the final seven minutes of the second half. Carolina would find a way to survive both Harrison Ingram and Jae’Lyn Withers fouling out just inside of four minutes remaining in the half. With Ingram, the team’s leading scorer at the time, out of the game, it was Ryan who stepped up and made a huge threat three with :34 left to tie the game at 68. The Tar Heels would get a huge stop on Eric Dixon and give R.J. Davis a solid look out of the timeout to tie it that just wouldn’t go down as time expired.

In the overtime period, the rock fight continued, but Villanova’s physicality was just too much in the end. Preseason first team All-Big East guard Justin Moore and fellow guard Mark Armstrong both just bullied their way to the basket, scoring nine of the team 15 points in overtime. The Tar Heels had a chance to tie it after a turnover on a long outlet pass by Jordan Longino, but Ryan was unable to hit the rim on his intentional missed free throw. Villanova would execute their next outlet pass perfectly to seal the win and send the Tar Heels to the consolation game in the Bahamas tomorrow.

This was a frustrating game for the Tar Heels on many levels. Having three players foul out is far from ideal, especially when one of them is your leading scorer at that time in the game. The Tar Heels had no answer for the physicality of Villanova, although the referees didn’t make it any easier to defend, calling just about every bump from a Tar Heel defender. The Tar Heels had 30 fouls called against them, the most since a 2015 game against Louisville. In comparison, Villanova, who's game involves a lot of beating and banging, was called for just 22. The fouls made it nearly impossible to slow down Dixon, especially early, allowing a career-high 34 points to him. It also made it difficult to contain Moore, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half and overtime.

The biggest concern right now has to be the struggles that Davis and Armando Bacot are having right now on the offensive end of the floor. Bacot has just 18 points combined in the first two games of the tournament after coming in averaging 22.3 per game in the first three games of the year. Davis may have scored a team-high 23 points in this one, but shot just 8-22 to get there and missed some key shots down the stretch. That’s not what the Tar Heels were hoping for from their two stars in a game like this. 

There were a lot of things that Carolina can build off of from the game as well, though. Ingram and Ryan have appeared to find their stride in this tournament and had fantastic performances in this one. Ryan’s ankle injury is a major concern, but if was able to avoid something serious, this game could be part of what jumpstarts his season. The depth of this team continued to show itself in this one, giving them a chance to still win the game after three key members of the team fouled out. The Tar Heels also stepped on the glass against this physical Villanova team to win the rebounding battle and further eradicate the concern about this team’s rebounding ability.

This one hurts, especially because of who it came against, but there is still a game to play tomorrow. A win against the loser of the Memphis-Arkansas game would still allow you to walk away with a pretty successful weekend.

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