PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Armando Bacot controlled the paint. Cole Anthony turned in big late-game plays. And along the way, No. 6 North Carolina offered plenty of the toughness that its Hall of Fame coach wanted to see following the team’s first loss.
Anthony hit a driving layup and four key free throws in the final 64 seconds to help the Tar Heels hold off No. 11 Oregon 78-74 in Friday’s third-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
The Tar Heels (6-1) were coming off Thursday’s defeat to Michigan in which they trailed at one point by 24 points. This time, UNC looked sharp in building a double-digit lead, then Anthony helped them hang on when the Ducks (6-2) got within a point.
“It was probably a double good feeling because we had a 10-point lead and we got it there with our toughness and our attention to detail,” UNC coach Roy Williams said, adding: “Then all of a sudden it gets to be a one-possession game, and then I liked our toughness after that again.”
Anthony had a baseline drive past Will Richardson with the Tar Heels up 70-69. He then hit four straight free throws to protect the lead in a game that went down to the final seconds. The freshman point guard finished with 19 points despite sitting for a chunk of the second half after picking up his fourth foul.
“I want to win, so whatever that means I’ve got to do — whether I’ve got to get a rebound, got to get a steal, whatever was needed I was going to try to do that for the team.”
Senior Brandon Robinson followed with clinching free throws with 0.8 seconds left.
Bacot had 23 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high six blocks for UNC, strongly patrolling the paint after struggling against Michigan’s size a day earlier in a game that he said left him feeling “like I got my butt whipped.”
“Today coming into the game, I knew I just had to make everything simple and just attack the offensive glass and do the moves we work on every day,” Bacot said.
Payton Pritchard had 19 points to lead Oregon, which nearly erased a third double-digit tournament deficit in as many days. But this time, Pritchard couldn’t connect on a late tying 3 after Anthony’s first two free throws in what amounted to the Ducks’ last best chance.
“We’ve just got to get a little tougher,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I liked our effort. I thought we played as hard as we could. But you’ve got to be more physical on the boards. We took it weak to the basket a few times. You’ve got to really take It strong. We’ve just didn’t finish enough plays.”
Oregon: The Ducks had a wild tournament. First, they came from 19 down after halftime to beat No. 13 Seton Hall. Then they rallied from 17 down before losing in overtime against No. 8 Gonzaga. They made one more tough climb after doing down 10 with about five minutes left but fell a little short.
UNC: The Tar Heels won their Atlantis opener against Alabama but Williams said after the Michigan loss that the team’s 5-0 start hasn’t been a “very good 5-0 compared to the way I think we should play and could play.” The response was UNC’s best overall performance this season.
AT THE LINE
Oregon made just 12 of 20 free throws while the Tar Heels — who came in ranked 321st nationally at 60% — made 20 of 21.
“They hit all their free throws, we didn’t,” Altman said. “It really hurts when you lose a couple of games to a couple of really good teams and you don’t do everything under your control.”
The Tar Heels finished with a season-high 12 blocks, highlighted the 6-3 Anthony skying to stuff a first-half dunk attempt by the 6-7 Shakur Juiston.
UNC’s Leaky Black didn’t play after halftime because of a foot injury. K.J. Smith played behind Anthony and had two assists. … Williams earned his 877th career win to break a tie with Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for fifth on the all-time men’s list. … Oregon made 12 of 30 3s, though just four after halftime. … UNC finished with a 47-39 rebounding advantage, though Oregon had a 22-19 edge on the offensive glass. … This is the first time in Oregon history that the Ducks have played four ranked teams in the nonconference schedule.
Oregon: Hosts Hawaii on Dec. 7.
UNC: Hosts No. 10 Ohio State on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.