No. 1 North Carolina faces a tougher test, taking on Iowa State

11/24/2022;  Portland, Oregon, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels' Armando Bacot (5) and Portland Pilots' Alden Applewhite (3) battle for the ball in the second half at the Moda Center. North Carolina won the game 89-81.  Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sport

No. 1 North Carolina advanced with a narrow win over Portland in Thursday’s Phil Knight Invitational. Next, the Tar Heels face their toughest opponent so far this season, facing Iowa State on Friday afternoon in Portland, Ore.

The Cyclones (4-0) will be the first major conference opponents the Tar Heels (5-0) face this season. North Carolina needed a late run Thursday to overcome a five-point deficit in the second half and beat the Portland Pilots 89-81.

UNC was powered by a career-best 28-point link from Northwestern transfer Pete Nance. He made a career-best five 3-pointers, and the Heels shot a best 50 percent of the season as a team from behind the arc.

“What I really enjoyed about Pete (Thursday) was that I felt like Pete was really aggressive,” said UNC coach Hubert Davis. “One of the conversations, and I’ve had that with him many times, is that he’s such a nice kid (and) that he wants to fit in. And I try to tell them how to fit in is to be a guy.

“And don’t worry about ‘You’re the new kid on the block.’ We didn’t recruit you to roleplay. We Hired You to Be What You Did (Thursday). You step on people’s shoes and stay aggressive. And that’s the way, regardless of whether he scores 28 points. That’s how I want him to play forward.”

UNC also got a double-double from Armando Bacot (11 points, 13 rebounds) and 23 points from Caleb Love.

What hurt the Tar Heels against Portland was their poor free throw shooting. UNC missed 10 free throws and shot just 61.5 percent from the line. That’s UNC’s worst mark from the free-throw line since a win over Florida State in February.

The UNC bench was also outscored by Portland, 25-3.

“If we needed to make winning plays, we could do it, but not with the consistent speed you need to be successful,” Davis said. “And that’s what frustrated me. We consistently did things throughout the game that we didn’t work on in training.”

The Cyclones also achieve a narrow victory. Iowa State beat Villanova 81-79 in overtime on Thursday. At the top was Gabe Kalscheur, who sank five 3-pointers on his way to 23 points. Osun Osunniyi added 17 points.

Kalscheur accounted for a large portion of Iowa’s 37 bank points. In addition to his sharp shooting, the Cyclones were also strong on the inside, outclassing Villanova 40-16 in the paint. Iowa State also scored 23 points from 18 Villanova turnovers.

“At the start of the game, she loved her energy. To start half, she loved her energy. Started overtime, loved her energy,” said Iowa State coach TJ Otzelberger. “A great team win. A lot of guys have made great contributions.”

North Carolina is the first ranked opponent Iowa State will face this season.

“When we are back at the hotel, we will meet immediately and start planning the game,” said Otzelberger. “We’ll probably show our guys a movie (from North Carolina) later (Thursday) tonight and make sure they know what our plan is going to be for that game before they go to bed (Thursday night).”

The state of Iowa has four players who average double digits. Jaren Holmes leads with 16.8 points per game. He had 12 points on Thursday’s 5-of-15 shooting.

–Field level media