ASHEVILLE — North Carolina started its first game of the relocated Maui Invitational so badly that it faced an immediate double-digit hole as its Hall of Fame coach benched multiple starters.
The 14th-ranked Tar Heels offered up a confidence-building response to those early troubles.
Freshman RJ Davis scored 16 points to help UNC beat UNLV 78-51 in Monday night’s first round. After falling behind 13-0, the Tar Heels used a big run spanning halftime and a dominating effort on the glass to advance.
“I told them at the first timeout I wasn’t worried about the score,” coach Roy Williams said. “I was just worried about how we were playing.”
Garrison Brooks added 14 points and surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career in the first half for the Tar Heels (2-0), who didn’t score for the first 6 1/2 minutes. But UNC closed the gap, then went on a 28-4 run for its own big lead.
The Tar Heels got a big contribution from senior reserve Andrew Platek, who had 11 points and hit a pair of first-half 3-pointers after UNC sputtered out of the tipoff.
“I think we were worried for a second,” Platek said of the players’ reaction to the early deficit. “But then we just knew if we played our principles and played our game plan, we were going to be fine.”
Bryce Hamilton scored 15 points for the Runnin’ Rebels (0-2), who hit their first five shots. But UNLV made 13 of 57 shots (22.8%) while the Tar Heels snagged seemingly every miss to finish with a 54-35 rebounding advantage.
UNLV led 27-22 on Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer with 4:56 left before halftime, but had one basket over the next 9 1/2 minutes — including an 0-for-10 start after halftime as the Tar Heels turned a 37-30 lead into a 50-31 margin on Davis’ 3 with 15:29 left.
“As the game wore on, they picked up the pressure, brought some presses, some traps, denied entries more on the wings and we didn’t do the job we needed to do to be stubborn to get open,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said.
“And eventually what it did is it just pushed us out on the floor and we were running offense at 35, 40 feet, which is a challenge.”
UNC junior wing Leaky Black had a game-high 10 rebounds to tie his career high and lead UNC’s rebounding work, while the Tar Heels had six players with at least five boards.
“We know that’s something we can lean on,” said Armando Bacot, who had 12 points and five rebounds.
The tournament is being played in the North Carolina mountains instead of its traditional Hawaii setting due to the coronavirus pandemic. That gave the Tar Heels a home-state game, albeit with fan cutouts in the seats and pumped-in crowd noise, and brought Williams back to the city where he grew up and played in high school.
Texas 78, Davidson 76
ASHEVILLE — Courtney Ramey and No. 17 Texas offered a glimpse Monday of the Longhorns’ potential depth to start the relocated Maui Invitational. Coach Shaka Smart wants to see the defense look a little sharper, too.
Ramey hit the go-ahead driving score with 20 seconds left and the Longhorns survived a pair of final-possession Davidson shots for the win to beat the Wildcats 78-76 in Monday’s tournament opener.
Ramey’s score broke a 76-all tie, then the Longhorns came up with a pair of stops. Davidson’s Sam Mennenga missed a contested 3-pointer from the wing, but the Wildcats got another shot when the ball went out of bounds with 3.8 seconds left.
The Wildcats (1-1) inbounded again to Mennenga, who missed a final 3 for the win with Texas’ Andrew Jones closely defending him. Mennenga turned toward a nearby official at the horn, while Davidson coach Bob McKillop also walked onto the court with arms extended to address officials briefly.
“You obviously have never seen me protest because that was very kind,” McKillop said. “My comment to him after the game was far from a protest. I just asked him very gentlemanly: ‘Do you think he got hit on that last play?'”
Ramey scored 14 points to lead the Longhorns, who had six players in double figures. Mennenga, a 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman from New Zealand, had 17 points and five rebounds to lead Davidson.
The Longhorns advanced to the semifinals, where they face Indiana on Tuesday. Davidson fell into the consolation bracket to face Providence on Tuesday.
Bowling Green 78, Appalachian State 76 (OT)
BOONE— Justin Turner had 25 points as Bowling Green narrowly beat Appalachian State 78-76 in overtime on Monday night.
Trey Diggs had 10 points for Bowling Green (2-1). Caleb Fields added 10 points. Daeqwon Plowden had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Michael Almonacy scored a career-high 21 points for the Mountaineers (2-1), including a four-point play with 55 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 69. Both teams had a possession with two shots after that but couldn’t connect.
Adrian Delph added 17 points and James Lewis Jr. had 14 points and eight rebounds for Appalachian State.
In overtime, Delph put the Mountaineers up by a basket, but Kaden Matheny answered with a 3-pointer before Diggs made it 74-71 with 2:50 to play.
Donovan Gregory pulled App State with one with a minute and a half remaining before Fields drilled a clutch 3-pointer with 17 seconds to go. However, Delph quickly answered to make it a one-point game with 6 seconds remaining. Turner made a free throw at four seconds but the Mountaineers’ long 3 missed at the buzzer.
Western Carolina 96, Piedmont 58
CULLOWHEE — Sin’Cere McMahon and Matt Halvorsen scored 20 points apiece as Western Carolina beat Piedmont 96-58 on Monday.
McMahon hit 6 of 8 3-pointers as WCU was 14 of 39 from distance.
Xavier Cork added 10 points and 10 rebounds and Tyler Harris had 10 points for Western Carolina (3-1).
Ryan Jolly had 19 points for the Lions. Orry Clements-Owens added 13 points, and Jordan Foote had 11 rebounds.
Campbell 85, St. Andrews Presbyterian 51
BUIES CREEK — Gediminas Mokseckas came off the bench to score 14 points to carry Campbell to an 85-51 win over St. Andrews Presbyterian on Monday.
Cedric Henderson Jr. had 13 points and eight rebounds for Campbell (1-0). Jordan Whitfield added 11 points and Joshua Lusane had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Myron Williams had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Knights, a NAIA school that treated their second-straight Division I opponent as an exhibition. Isaac Clay added 12 points.