Preview UNC vs. Alabama: PKI Third Place Match

No. 1 North Carolina (5-1) vs. No. 18 Alabama (5-1)
Phil Knight Invitational Third Place Match
Portland, Oregon – Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Sunday, Nov. 27 – 3:30 p.m. ET
ESPN (Roxy Bernstein, Bill Walton)


“Just because you’re experienced doesn’t mean you’re perfect. You can get all the experiences in the world. I’m 52 years old, I have 52 years of experience, I make mistakes every day. … I wish we had handled it differently, but we didn’t. And next time we’re in that situation, I hope we handle it differently.” — UNC coach Hubert Davis on the Tar Heels fiddled with their late lead to fall 70-65 in Friday’s semifinals of the tournament against Iowa State.

“I think it will only get tighter in some places, but we don’t hang our heads too low. We have a lot of basketball ahead of us. There’s a lot we can learn and grow from this game, so we’re looking forward to the next one.” – UNC forward Pete Nance on the Iowa state loss.

Notes before the game

Disconnect remote connection: North Carolina missed all but one of its eight 3-point attempts in the second half of the loss to Iowa State and finished the game with a season-worst 16.7 percent (3 to 18) from 3-point range. It was another outing where the Tar Heels mostly missed that component on offense.

UNC produces just 23.3 percent of its total points beyond the 3-point arc, one of the lowest rates in college basketball, ranking 327th out of 363 teams at the Division I level. Things dried up for the Tar Heels in the PKI semifinals , a day after their best performance of the young season, 11-22 with 3 points against Portland.

UNC posted a combined 23-for-80 on 3-point tries in their wins over UNCW, College of Charleston, Gardner-Webb and James Madison before traveling to Portland for the tournament. Among players who have made more than one attempt from 3-point territory this season, Nance’s 45.5 percent shooting (10-on-22) leads the Tar Heels. Guards Caleb Love (9-38) and RJ Davis (8-30) are combined 17-68 (25 percent) in six games.

Sales Bug Bites: In Friday’s semifinals of the tournament, North Carolina lost for the first time since November 21, 2015 (in Northern Iowa) as the No. 1 team, and Iowa State went 21 points short of the Tar Heels’ 14 turnovers. That was the best for a UNC opponent this season after Portland removed 20 points from the Tar Heels’ 13 turnovers in the PKI opener.

Iowa State maintained a 21-6 revenue point advantage while Portland led UNC in that category 20-16. On Friday, Leaky Black’s bucket gave UNC a 60-53 lead with 3:55 left, but the Tar Heels didn’t score another field goal until Nance tapped on the final horn. Between those baskets, UNC went 0-on-3 off the field and committed four turnovers on the stretch.

UNC forward Pete Nance and Alabama forward Brandon Miller. (Photo: Inside Carolina/Marvin Gentry, USA Today Sports)

How Alabama got here: Standout freshman Brandon Miller delivered 17 of his 24 first-half points to help Alabama to an 81-70 win over No. 12 Michigan State on Thanksgiving night in the teams’ tournament opener. Miller capped his great first half by sinking a 30-foot jab at the buzzer.

Miller defeated Alabama by 18 points in an 82-67 loss to No. 20 Connecticut in Friday night’s semifinals. It wasn’t a clean performance as the Crimson Tide spat out 21 turnovers, including 16 in the first half. “Turnovers killed us in the first half,” said Alabama coach Nate Oats. Alabama trailed 33-18 late in the first half before leveling four times in the second half. UConn broke up a 50-50 tie game to take a 71-54 lead.

Stretchy 6-9 forward Miller, a McDonald’s All-American and five-star high school recruit, is college basketball’s highest-scoring freshman at 20.5 points per game.

Last meeting: UNC defeated Alabama 76-67 in the Bahamas in November 2019. Garrison Brooks, an Alabama native, led the Tar Heels with 20 points while then-rookie Armando Bacot delivered 12 points and 15 rebounds and Black had nine points, nine rebounds and two steals.

Series history: UNC leads the all-time streak 8-4. Sunday is just the second game between North Carolina and Alabama in the last 30 seasons.

As a college player, Hubert Davis went 2-1 against Alabama. He scored 19, 14, and 16 points in three games against the Crimson Tide. Davis’ last win in a UNC uniform came against an Alabama team featuring Robert Horry and Latrell Sprewell in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.

Planned UNC launchers:
1 Leaky Black (Gr., 6-9, 205) – 8.5 ppg, 7 rpg
2 Caleb Love (Jr., 6-4, 200) – 17.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.3 apg
4 RJ Davis (Jr., 6-0, 175) – 15.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3 apg
5 Armando Bacot (Sr., 6-11, 235) – 16.2 ppg, 11.5 rpg
32 Pete Nance (Gr., 6-11, 230) – 13.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg

Planned Alabama starters:
1 Mark Sears (Jr., 6-1, 185) – 12.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.3 apg

14 Charles Bediako (Sun., 7-0, 215) – 4.7 ppg, 6 rpg
15 Noah Clowney (Fri., 6-10, 210) – 7.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg
24 Brandon Miller (Fri., 6-9, 200) – 20.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg
25 Nimari Burnett (Sun., 6-4, 190) – 8.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg

UNC info
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Alabama info
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