With its perfect record intact, No. 1 North Carolina is leaving Chapel Hill for the first time this season, heading west to the Phil Knight Invitational at Portland, Oregon.
The Tar Heels will play three games in the tournament, beginning Thursday against Portland, who will bus a mere 5 miles for the tournament opener.
North Carolina (4-0) is coming off an 80-64 home win over James Madison on Sunday. The Tar Heels led wire-to-wire over the Dukes and won the rebounding battle 50-34.
RJ Davis led the Tar Heels with 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He also had five assists.
“We took a step forward on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “The first half was very evident of it, the way we shared the basketball, the way we were locked in on defense. We all played together and that was the main message going into the game, just to play Carolina basketball.
The win over James Madison also saw Armando Bacot grab a career-high 23 rebounds. The senior big man – tabbed ACC Preseason Player of the Year – also scored 19 points. He leads UNC in scoring and rebounding this season with 18.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
“That’s Mando. That’s who he is,” teammate Caleb Love said. “I’m looking forward to seeing that consistently throughout the season. He had a great game.”
Love is second in scoring for UNC with 17.8 points per game.
UNC’s win over James Madison also saw Puff Johnson return to the lineup. He missed the first three games with knee pain. He finished his season debut with six points and an assist in 13 minutes.
“I was really proud of him. It’s been a while since he’s been out there,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “The thing that I love about Puff is that he always – and it doesn’t matter if he’s coming back from an injury or not – plays hard. And when you play hard, the ball just finds you on both ends of the floor.”
Portland (4-2) is coming off a loss to Seattle. Tyler Robertson led the Pilots with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
The Pilots’ defense saw Seattle to shoot 53.2 percent from the floor. Portland also lost the rebounding battle 36-28.
Shantay Legans is in his second season coaching the Pilots. The 41-year-old previously coached at Eastern Washington. In Legans’ first season, the Pilots won 8 of their last 11 games to finish 19-15 overall and 7-7 in West Coast Conference play.
“We got in a good rhythm towards the end of last year. Guys started to understand the role that we wanted them to be in,” Legans said, according to SB Nation. “Those six guys that really played got comfortable with each other. Getting them to get like that towards the end of the year gives me a lot of hope for this year, especially with the guys we brought in.”
Robertson is one of Portland’s key returners and leads the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game. Moses Wood averages 13.8 points and a team-best 7.6 rebounds per game.
–Field Level Media