PORTLAND, Ore.— It wasn’t the best of starts for No. 9 North Carolina.
Facing an overmatched foe in Portland, the Tar Heels needed a full half to put away the Pilots as Luke Maye led North Carolina to a 102-78 victory in the first round of the Phil Knight 80 Invitational on Thursday.
“We’re just happy to get a win — we did some good things, we did some bad things,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “I liked what a lot of our guys did, we had five guys in double figures … had 39 made shots and 16 offensive rebounds.”
Maye, North Carolina’s leading scorer, finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Joel Berry II added 18 points and was 4 of 9 from beyond the arc.
Theo Pinson did a bit of everything for North Carolina (4-0), finishing with 11 points. He also added a game-high seven assists to go with nine rebounds. Kenny Williams added 17 points.
“It’s just something I’ve been gifted to have my whole life,” Pinson said about his offensive prowess. “I just try to be aggressive and make plays … when I get to the basket good things happen.”
Portland (2-2) was led by Franklin Porter and his team-high 19 points. Leading scorer Josh McSwiggan, who entered the game averaging 14.3 points, was held in check by the Tar Heels‘ length and finished with six points.
Leading 48-35 at the break, North Carolina began the second half on a 14-0 run over the first three minutes to put the game away.
“We turned it over a couple of times and (North Carolina) just hit their shots,” Portland coach Terry Porter said. “A few of their guys knocked down 3s, they got some shots in the post, and they got the momentum.”
North Carolina’s run to begin the second half was vintage Tar Heel basketball as the team used its length to rebound and outlet, switching from defense to offense before the Pilots could react. All five starters scored during the run.
The Tar Heels dominated the game down low, outrebounding the Pilots 51-33, including a 16-9 advantage on the offensive glass. North Carolina scored 52 points in the paint, limiting Portland to 26.
“The size difference really hurt us inside,” coach Porter said. “We just couldn’t finish with their size and rebound the way we do.”
Throughout the first half when North Carolina appeared poised to pull away, defensive breakdowns kept giving the Pilots open 3-pointers — which they made. Portland hit seven 3-pointers in the first half to stay within striking distance but eventually the length and athleticism of theTar Heels prevailed.
With the win, North Carolina advances to the winner’s bracket and will face Arkansas on Friday. Portland plays Oklahoma in the loser’s bracket.
NOTES: Five North Carolina players scored in double-figures … The Tar Heels dished out 22 assists … Maye scored 20 points for the third time in the past four games … Guards Franklin and Malcolm Porter are the sons of Portland coach, and longtime NBA player, Terry Porter … The floors appeared to be slick as the game was stopped six times in the first half to clean up moisture.