ASHEVILLE — Leaky Black and North Carolina spent last season struggling in late-game situations, fumbling away leads and failing to make a needed play at the most critical of moments.
Maybe the 14th-ranked Tar Heels have learned from that.
Black had a big driving basket at the 1:02 mark followed by a clinching free throw with 5.5 seconds left Tuesday to help UNC hold off Stanford 67-63, sending the Tar Heels to the championship game of the relocated Maui Invitational. The Tar Heels will play No. 17 Texas tomorrow at 4 p.m. for the title.
Freshman Caleb Love scored 16 points to lead the Tar Heels (3-0), who won despite 24 turnovers.
“I feel like we’re battle-tested,” Black said. “I feel like we’ve been through everything we can possibly have been through going through last year. And I felt like we got some guys that’s willing to learn and to fight when the going gets tough, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Last year marked the first losing season of Hall of Famer Roy Williams’ career, which included squandering numerous second-half leads with seven losses by four or fewer points.
Most notably, UNC blew a 10-point lead in the final two minutes of regulation against Clemson to lose in overtime for its first ever loss in Chapel Hill to the Tigers, along with blowing a 13-point lead in the final 4 1/2 minutes of regulation in an overtime loss to rival Duke.
This time, the Tar Heels won a game in which neither team led by more than three in the final 6 1/2 minutes until Black’s late free throw.
“I loved how we just kept trying to make it ugly,” Williams said, “but at the same time kept competing.”
Daejon Davis scored 18 points to lead Stanford (1-1), which shot 39% and made 5 of 20 3-point tries. Touted freshman Ziaire Williams finished with 10 points.
“I think we had a plan and a good plan, but their pressure certainly got to us — probably a little bit of fatigue, and we weren’t as efficient offensively,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. “Normally when we keep our turnovers down to 13, we’re going to be pretty good. But we’re usually a little bit more efficient shooting the basketball.”