No. 1 North Carolina pulls away from Portland late, 89-81

Nov 23, 2022, 10:16 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2022, 3:04 pm
North Carolina forward Pete Nance, right, shoots over Portland center Joey St. Pierre during the fi...

North Carolina forward Pete Nance, right, shoots over Portland center Joey St. Pierre during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

              North Carolina guard Caleb Love dunks the ball against Portland during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
            
              North Carolina guard Caleb Love, right, shoots over Portland forward Kristian Sjolund, left, and forward Moses Wood during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
            
              North Carolina forward Pete Nance, right, shoots over Portland center Joey St. Pierre during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Top-ranked North Carolina knew there would be tests during its weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

Unexpectedly, its opener was one.

Pete Nance scored 28 points, Caleb Love added 23 and No. 1 North Carolina withstood the Portland Pilots 89-81 in the opening round of the Phil Knight Invitational on Thursday.

The Tar Heels (5-0) needed a late 14-3 run to finally pull away from one of the tournament’s host schools.

“I want us to consistently compete and for the first five games, it’s been there for half, it’s been there for moments, but it hasn’t been there for a full 40 minutes on both ends of the floor,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

Love carried them in the first half with 16 points and reached the 1,000-point mark in his career, becoming the 80th North Carolina player to reach that mark. North Carolina has the most 1,000-point scorers of any school in the country.

Nance picked up the slack after halftime with 20 points and matched his career high in scoring set last season when he was playing for Northwestern.

“All the credit to my teammates,” Nance said. “I think they were finding me in my spots when I was open. I try to work on those shots and they were going in today.”

Moses Wood led Portland (4-3) with 21 points. The Pilots didn’t let the Heels pull away until the closing minutes when Portland went cold from the field. Portland had just one field goal in the final 4 minutes — Tyler Robertson hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to cut North Carolina’s lead to 84-81.

But that was the last chance for the Pilots, because RJ Davis hit a 17-footer for the Tar Heels with 26 seconds left to put the game away. Davis finished with 13 points, Armando Bacot had 11 points and 13 rebounds and Leaky Black had 11 points.

“It’s an interesting position that we’re in. People have an expectation of how it should look. And so we’re supposed to be up by 20 at halftime. We’re supposed to win every game by 30,” Davis said. “No. We’re supposed to compete and play hard and improve.”

Robertson, Portland’s leading scorer, finished with 13 points after going scoreless in the first half. Alden Applewhite added 14 off the bench.

“I think everyone is kind of disappointed that we didn’t come out with a win. We know we had chances to come out and win that game,” Robertson said. “I’ll put my hand up and say I missed some big shots at the end. But I think that everyone just sees and knows that these teams that we play in our conference the rest of the preseason that we’re going to be in every single game.”

Portland took its biggest lead at 64-59 when Applewhite scored on a pretty backdoor cut with 11:30 remaining. North Carolina scored 10 of the next 13 points, but Wood’s baseline floater pulled the Pilots even at 69-69 with 7:30 left.

Robertson’s baseline jumper and another floater by Wood pushed Portland’s lead to four, but the Tar Heels responded with their decisive run.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Portland was the fifth straight team from a non-Power 5 conference that the Tar Heels faced to open the season. That will change Friday with their semifinal matchup. North Carolina has just one game remaining on its schedule against a non-Power 5 team.

Portland: It was a tremendous effort by the Pilots, who faced North Carolina in the opening round of this tournament when it was played five years ago and lost 102-78. The Pilots also played without starting guard Mike Meadows due to injury.

UP NEXT

North Carolina: The Tar Heels will face Iowa State in the semifinals on Friday.

Portland: The Pilots will face Villanova in a consolation game on Friday.

___

AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE -  New York Yankees' Aaron Judge gestures as he runs the bases after hitting a solo home run, ...
Associated Press

Judge looms; Verlander, Turner deals heat up winter meetings

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Justin Verlander is going to the New York Mets. Trea Turner has agreed to a blockbuster deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. There are three more high-profile shortstops in free agency, along with ace pitcher Carlos Rodón. And one big slugger looms above the whole market. Baseball’s first winter meetings since 2019 […]
18 hours ago
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles against Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) a...
Associated Press

Nike says Kyrie Irving is no longer one of its athletes

Kyrie Irving’s relationship with Nike is officially over, the shoe and athletic apparel maker said Monday, a move that came a month after the company suspended the Brooklyn guard as part of the fallout over his tweeting a link to a film containing antisemitic material. It was not a surprise breakup, especially after Nike co-founder […]
18 hours ago
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) reacts after a score during the second half of the team's NBA b...
Associated Press

Hawks’ Trae Young, McMillan try to smooth over dispute

ATLANTA (AP) — Trae Young says he and Hawks coach Nate McMillan have smoothed over their disagreement regarding his not attending a game last Friday. Young, the team’s leading scorer, was out with a sore shoulder and did not attend the game the win over the Denver Nuggets. It is rare for an injured player […]
18 hours ago
TCU quarterback Max Duggan (15) throws in the first half of the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA...
Associated Press

Bennett, Duggan, Stroud, Williams are Heisman finalists

Quarterbacks Stetson Bennett of Georgia, Max Duggan of TCU, C.J. Stroud of Ohio State and Caleb Williams of Southern California were announced as finalists for the Heisman Trophy on Monday night. The award given to the outstanding player in college football, determined by a vote of more than 900 sports journalists and past winners, will […]
18 hours ago
Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris, left, Tyrese Maxey, center, and James Harden, right, look on fro...
Associated Press

Sixers’ Harden to return Monday against Rockets after injury

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden will return Monday night for the Philadelphia 76ers against the Houston Rockets after missing 14 games with a foot injury. Harden, who spent just more than eight seasons with the Rockets before being traded to Brooklyn in January 2021, last played Nov. 2. He had a tendon strain in his […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Blake scores 20, Green Bay beats IUPUI 68-61

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Zae Blake scored 20 points to help Green Bay defeat IUPUI 68-61 on Monday. Blake added three steals for the Phoenix (1-7). Clarence Cummings III scored 16 points, going 6 of 13 from the floor, including 2 for 5 from distance, and 2 for 5 from the line. Garren Davis […]
18 hours ago
No. 1 North Carolina pulls away from Portland late, 89-81