The No. 14 North Carolina men’s basketball team (3-0, 0-0 ACC) used great defense and a few late clutch buckets to defeat Stanford (1-1, 0-0 PAC-12), 67-63.
The Tar Heels had another sluggish start, only scoring five points in the first six minutes, but they kept the game close, which allowed them to take their first lead after a 9-0 run to make the game 14-8. UNC’s defense came to play from the start, forcing four early turnovers, setting up easy offensive opportunities.
The Cardinal came roaring back to go back ahead, 19-16, as the UNC offense began to stall once again. A layup by senior forward Garrison Brooks would help North Carolina retake the lead, but Stanford responded. Sparked by a pair of 3-pointers by first-year phenom Ziaire Williams, the Cardinal were able to finally separate in a back-and-forth first half. The eight point lead Stanford amassed was cut in half by the Tar Heels before the teams went to the locker room.
UNC came into the second 20 minutes with an offensive resurgence. The pace of play began to speed up, which would turn the game in favor of North Carolina. First-year guard Caleb Love led the charge with two 3-pointers and an explosive drive to the rim. He shrugged off a cold start to get his team a 44-41 lead with a little over 16 minutes left to play.
Stanford was eventually able to slow the tempo down and halt the momentum created by UNC. The game would then return to the scrappy defensive battle seen for the majority of the first half. Each team would go consecutive two-minute scoring droughts as the Tar Heels clung to a small lead. But they could not put the ball in the basket and Stanford suddenly had a five point lead.
North Carolina would tie the game at 58 after a pair of free throws from Love and the first-year drained a clutch mid-range jump shot to eventually give his team a lead. He then made a huge play on the defensive end, hustling backup to block a layup.
A few plays later, Leaky Black drove to paint and laid the ball up beautifully to keep North Carolina up three in the final minute, 66-63. The junior got the big defensive rebound and the free throw to send the Tar Heels into the Maui Invitational Championship Game.
Who stood out?
Love recovered from a rough first half and was instrumental in his team’s hard-fought victory. He led the team with 16 points and made several huge plays on both the offensive and defensive ends. His aggressive play in the final 20 minutes was a big factor in the win.
Black was fantastic on defense the entire game, holding Williams to only 10 points. He closed out the game scoring the final three points, including the biggest shot of the night, a contested layup off a strong drive to the rim.
When was it decided?
The was tight until the final whistle, but the Tar Heels made key shots when they need them the most, They prevented the Cardinals from ever making a run to take control of the game, giving them the chance to win in the final moments.
Why does it matter?
Stanford is the first power-five team UNC has played and the first real test for the fourteenth-ranked team in the nation. The Cardinal were looking to defeat the Tar Heels for the first time in team history, but were denied yet again.
Roy Williams also faced off against another former assistant coach in Jerod Haase, who spent nine seasons under him at UNC. With the win, Williams adds on to an already-dominant 10-1 record against his assistant coaches, with his only defeat coming against Haase’s 2013 UAB squad.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels face off against Texas in the Maui Invitational Championship Game on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
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