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Heel Tough Blog: Phil Knight Invitational - Alabama Recap


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In a regular season game for the ages, the Tar Heels fell short yesterday, 103-101 in four overtimes, as they finished fourth in the Phil Knight Invitational. Yesterday was the first time that Carolina played in a four-overtime game, since defeating Tulane back in 1976, 113-106 in the Superdome. Junior transfer, Mark Sears was sensational for the Crimson Tide, scoring 24 points, as he knocked in 7-11 three-pointers. Meanwhile, Caleb Love poured in 34 points, but did so on 36 shots, going 13-36, as he and R.J. Davis combined to shoot 60 of the 91 total shots for Carolina.


The classic didn’t go without controversy, as in the final overtime period, a Caleb Love shot was called for goaltending, giving UNC a break 103-102 lead. A rule change back in 2019, allowed such goals to be reviewed, and this one was. The review determined that there was no goaltending on the shot (the correct call), and that meant an inadvertent whistle had been blown. That meant that the possession of the ball was determined by the possession arrow, which belonged to Alabama. Carolina would force a turnover on the ensuing inbound, giving Tar Heel fans hope, that the basketball gods were on their side. They were not. Pete Nance would throw away an inbound pass, and Alabama would make one of two free throws before R.J. Davis missed a shot at the buzzer, resulting in the 103-101 final score.


As frustrating as the final sequences were from an officiating standpoint, UNC did themselves no favors as they shot 42% from the field, 30% from behind the arc, committed 18 turnovers, and lost the battle of the boards. Hubert Davis was proud of the way his team competed but knows his team has work to do to become a better basketball team in the days ahead.


Carolina knew coming to Portland they were going to learn a lot about who they are as a basketball team, and after a 1-2 stint, that very well could’ve been 0-3, it’s evident this team has work to do to live up to the hype of the off-season. Here’s what to take away from the loss to Alabama:


  1. 3 Point Defense: Carolina allowed Alabama to shoot 16-38 (42%) from behind the arc, led by Sears going 7-11. 5 different Crimson Tide players made a triple, as Carolina had a difficult time containing the basketball, allowing open shots after the defense collapsed to help take away the lane. Carolina came to Portland, holding teams to just 29% shooting from the outside, but allowed every opponent to shoot 38% or better in all three games.

  2. Shot Selection: Carolina’s halfcourt offense is a mess right now, and the absence of Brady Manek seems to grow larger by the possession. Hubert Davis scrapped the pick-and-roll game and went iso with his backcourt. That was in large part due to the passive play of Bacot and Pete Nance, and it resulted in Love and Davis taking contested shots all game long, combining for only 21-60. UNC needs Bacot and Nance to better both individually and collectively, that way Love and Davis aren’t having to work so hard for their offense, until that happens, this pedestrian offensive play isn’t going anywhere.

  3. Rebounding: Alabama entered as the best rebounding team in college basketball, and looked the part winning the rebounding battle, 58-54, including 21-17 on the offensive glass. Charles Bediako led the game with 16 rebounds, as Carolina simply had no answer for him in this game. All 5 starters for the Tar Heels recorded at least seven rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the 21 offensive rebounds were too much to overcome.

  4. Special Teams: One area that UNC did excel in was the secondary stats as they scored 54 points in the paint, 24 fast break points, recorded 10 blocks, and totaled 12 steals. If those numbers start to carry over on a more consistent basis, it will reward the team on the floor and the scoreboard.

  5. Puff Johnson Emerges: In only his fourth game of the season, Johnson played in 48 minutes, scored 10 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and made every hustle play possible to help his team try to win the game. With Johnson back, Carolina finally has a known contributor off the bench, something this team desperately needs.

Up Next: Carolina stays away from Chapel Hill, as they travel to Bloomington to take on Indiana on Wednesday night. This game will tip at 9:15 on ESPN.


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