Reports of North Carolina’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
On Nov. 28, after the Tar Heels were beaten to a pulp by Michigan, Roy Williams said he was doing one of the worst coaching jobs in his 31 years as coach, showed frustration with the way his team was playing, and made it clear he was disappointed with his coaching staff for the team being outclassed in virtually every phase against the Wolverines.
UNC had a weeklong break from action in the wake of both that game and those comments to fix things, but a win over UNC Wilmington seven days later didn’t provide a clear picture on whether some of those issues were shored up. Fast forward 10 more days to Saturday night, and it’s safe to say things have, at the very least, moderately improved.
The No. 12 Tar Heels captured their biggest win of the season to date against No. 4 Gonzaga 103-90, taking a lead at the 14:28 mark of the first half and never relinquishing it. They were the aggressor on the evening and it was clear despite their lesser ranking, they weren’t in any way backing down from the challenge. Cam Johnson and Luke Maye were sensational finishing with 25 and 20 points, respectively, and getting it in a variety of ways: attacking the hole, drilling 3-pointers and drawing contact to get to the free throw line. They set the tone early by attacking with intensity, and the rest of their Tar Heel teammates followed their lead.
Yes, North Carolina (8-2) had home court advantage, and yes, North Carolina was expected to win. But don’t you dare downplay the significance of this outcome — this is an excellent win for the Tar Heels all around. Gonzaga (9-2) has been crushing basically everyone all season, notching wins over then No. 1 Duke, Creighton on the road, Illinois and Arizona on neutral courts before sustaining its first loss to Tennessee on Sunday. Sure, this is Gonzaga’s second consecutive loss, but the Vols are Final Four quality. We’re learning quickly that UNC, though somewhat all over the map this season, clearly is deserving of being considered for inclusion into that class, too.
Saturday’s college basketball scores
- No. 1 Kansas 74, No. 17 Villanova 71 — Recap
- No. 3 Tennessee 102, Memphis 92 — Recap
- Notre Dame 88, Purdue 80 — Recap
- No. 25 Indiana 71, Butler 68 — Recap
- No. 19 Kentucky 88, Utah 61 — Recap
- No. 20 Arizona State 76, Georgia 74 — Recap
- No. 13 Virginia Tech 73, Washington 61 Recap
- No. 12 North Carolina 103, No. 4 Gonzaga 90 — Recap
- No. 8 Auburn 75, UAB 71 (OT) — Recap
- No. 25 Kansas State 71, Georgia State 59 — Recap
- No. 18 Mississippi State 70, Cincinnati 59 — Recap
- No. 7 Nevada 72, South Dakota State 68 — Recap
Check these out…
No. 1 Kansas gets Final Four payback vs. Villanova
No. 1 Kansas and No. 17 Villanova went back-and-forth on KU’s own turf Saturday. The Jayhawks led by just two points at halftime and the game was within two possessions for the entirety of the final minute, but they pulled away in the end to secure a 74-71 win and improve to 9-0 in front of Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
After falling to ‘Nova in the Final Four back in March, this has to be a satisfying win for KU as it continues to pile up wins and pad its impressive early resume. They’ve now won 39 consecutive games at home when ranked as the No. 1 team in America, dating back to the 1990s.
Indiana stuns Butler with buzzer-beater
Just when it appeared as if Butler and Indiana were headed to overtime in Indy, frosh guard Rob Phinisee did this.
The Hoosiers trailed for much of the second game of the Crossroads Classic against the Bulldogs, but Juwan Morgan came alive in the second half to lead IU back to within striking distance. He led all scorers with 35. Phinisee’s 3-pointer was his third make of the game, giving IU a 71-68 final advantage.
Belmont upsets UCLA in Westwood
UCLA fell 74-72 to Belmont on its own court as nearly a double-digit favorite entering the game, all while Belmont’s best player, Dylan Windler, managed an inefficient 4-of-14 night for 12 points on the afternoon. The Bruins missed more free throws (16) than they made (12), missed 20 3-pointers and made only eight, and allowed the other Bruins team to knock down 11 of their 32 shots from long distance.
Belmont’s a good team — maybe the best in the Ohio Valley — but UCLA coughing this one up on its home court will be a tough one to swallow for fans. They have a tough stretch upcoming that features Cincinnati, Ohio State and Liberty before 2018’s end, and none are gimmes — especially after getting a jarring look at just how bad UCLA was on Saturday.
Syracuse loses buy game to Old Dominion
Old Dominion’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2009 came Saturday at the expense of No. 25 Syracuse.
The Monarchs knocked off the Orange 68-62, knocking down nine 3-pointers and forcing 13 turnovers in the effort. Senior BJ Stith, who was held scoreless in the first half, exploded for 18 points in the second half. Compounding matters, Syracuse reportedly paid $85,000 for the L.
Notre Dame upends Purdue in Crossroads Classic
Carsen Edwards scored 27 points and drilled four of his 10 3-point attempts, but Purdue didn’t quite have enough juice to overcome its deficit to cross-state rival Notre Dame in the Fighting Irish’s 88-80 victory in the first game of the Crossroads Classic. The Irish took control midway through the first half, and did not relinquish their lead for the remainder of the game. John Mooney scored 21 and D.J. Harvey added 19 of his own, ending ND’s two-game losing skid and giving it its best win of the season.
Temple tops Davidson in OT with game-winning jam
On Saturday afternoon, a frenzied final possession for Indiana led to an eventual game-winning 3-point heave from freshman Rob Phinisee. It was March Madness in December – exactly the type of unlikely shot that seems to happen annually in the NCAA Tournament.
But rare, if ever, do we see games end in exclamatory dunks. And yet, that’s exactly what Temple’s Quinton Rose did – and in overtime, no less! He jumped the passing lane with under 5 seconds left, went coast to coast and jammed it to give the Owls the 77-75 victory.
Ohio State bucks early deficit, beats Bucknell
Bucknell over … Ohio State? Yes, that really almost happened.
The visiting Bison led at half 40-39 and threatened the No. Buckeyes, but the home crowd — and Kaleb Wesson’s 22 points — helped No. 15 OSU to a close 73-71 win to avoid the upset. The Buckeyes improve to 9-1 on the season and will likely make a slight move up the rankings from No. 15 come next week.