UNC vs. Iowa State Preview: PKI semifinals

No. 1 North Carolina (5-0) vs. Iowa State (4-0)
Phil Knight Invitational semifinals
Portland, Ore. — Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Friday, Nov. 25 — 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)


“It doesn’t matter if it’s West Coast, East Coast, if we play at 10 am, 10 pm We have to come out with a sense of urgency and enthusiasm. We all love the game, so we should have that passion and kind of be emotional. Coach Davis was talking to us about playing with that fire, playing with enthusiasm and energy, and you kind of can see that sometimes it’s not really there.” — UNC guard RJ Davis, after the Tar Heels defeated Portland 89-81 in Thursday’s tournament opener.

“I’ve got tremendous confidence in our frontline guys. I know that they’re a program that traditionally has played two frontline guys, and likes to go inside. So I know our guys will be up for the challenge. We’re excited to get out there tomorrow, because we’re going to go inside as well, and we have confidence and belief in our guys. They’ll go in, we’ll go in, and we’ll see what happens.” — Iowa State coach TJ Otzelberger, on facing Armando Bacot and the Tar Heels

Pregame Notes

Rebounding Coming Around: UNC began this season of great expectations by getting out-rebounded by UNCW and College of Charleston. But maybe the Tar Heels are starting to find their groove on the glass, led by the 6-foot-11 Bacot. North Carolina has grabbed plus-16 advantages on the boards in its last two games, out-rebounding James Madison 50-34 and Portland 39-23.

Bacot’s 11 points and 13 rebounds against Portland on Thursday in the PKI tournament opener marked his second double-double in as many games, following his monster 19-point, 23-rebound effort against JMU. Bacot collected six offensive rebounds against Portland and has hauled in 14 boards on the offensive glass across the last two games. He needs two more rebounds to surpass Billy Cunningham (1,062 career rebounds) for fourth place all-time at UNC.

Game Pressure, Check: North Carolina can cross off successfully navigating game pressure from its early season checklist. The squeaker past Portland saw the Tar Heels fall behind 64-59 midway through the second half and trail the Pilots with fewer than 4½ minutes remaining in the game.

Portland’s 12 made 3-pointers were the most by a UNC opponent this season. Coach Hubert Davis said he wasn’t satisfied with the level of intensity at times from the Tar Heels, but he pointed out that winning plays were delivered when they were required. There were 15 lead changes, the most in a UNC game this season, and the score was tied six times.

Leaky Black’s corner 3-pointer off RJ Davis’ pass put UNC ahead to stay at 76-75, and the Tar Heels did enough during crunch time to survive. Bacot’s dunk off a sweet feed from the drive Black gave UNC a 79-76 lead. Later, Davis drained a jumper for a sliver of breathing room and 86-81 lead with about 25 seconds left.

UNC guard Caleb Love and Iowa State guard Jaren Holmes. (Photo: Inside Carolina / Nirmalendu Majumdar, USA Today)

How Iowa State Got Here: Freshman guard Tamin Lipsey made four free throws for his only points of the game during the final 20 seconds of overtime, as Iowa State closed out Villanova 81-79 on Thursday at the Moda Center.

The Cyclones of the Big 12 Conference opened the second half with a 17-1 burst and led 51-35, but couldn’t dispose of rallying Villanova in regulation. Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer to open overtime put Iowa State ahead to stay. Gabe Kalscheur’s five 3-pointers and 23 points off the bench topped the scoring for the Cyclones, who also got 17 points from Osun Osunniyi, and 12 points and nine assists from Jaren Holmes.

Last meeting: Iowa State defeated North Carolina 85-83 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, a Round of 32 matchup in San Antonio. Marcus Paige’s 19 points and Leslie McDonald’s 18 points led all five UNC starters in double figures. Kennedy Meeks had 15 points and 13 rebounds. DeAndre Kane supplied 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to help fuel Iowa State.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series 3-1. Three of the four meetings between the Tar Heels and Cyclones have occurred in the NCAA Tournament. UNC is 9-1 all-time in the state of Oregon, including 7-0 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the tournament shifts Friday after Thursday’s openers at the Moda Center.

Projected UNC Starters:
1 Leaky Black (Gr., 6-9, 205) — 9 ppg, 7.4 rpg
2 Caleb Love (Jr., 6-4, 200) — 18.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.4 apg
4 RJ Davis (Jr., 6-0, 175) — 15.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.4 apg
5 Armando Bacot (Sr., 6-11, 235) — 16.8 ppg, 12 rpg
32 Pete Nance (Gr., 6-11, 230) — 14 ppg, 4 rpg

Projected Iowa State Starters:
2 Caleb Grill
(Sr., 6-3, 200) — 7.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg
3 Insurance Lipsey (Fr., 6-1, 200) — 4.5 ppg, 3.8 apg
5 Aljaz Kunc (Sr., 6-8, 225) — 10.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg
13 Jaren Holmes (Sr., 6-4, 210) — 16.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.8 apg
21 Osun Osunniyi (Sr., 6-10, 235) — 12.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg

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