The No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels scored a 78-74 victory Friday over the No. 11 Oregon Ducks in the 2019 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament third-place game at Imperial Arena in Nassau, Bahamas.
It marked a terrific bounce-back opportunity after both teams suffered their first losses of the 2019-20 college basketball season in Thursday's semifinals. UNC came up short against the Michigan Wolverines, while Oregon fell to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in an overtime thriller.
Although the Tar Heels came out on top in the consolation clash, each side has shown during the first quarter of the campaign that a deep NCAA tournament run is realistic.
Notable Game Stats
Armando Bacot (UNC): 23 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks
Cole Anthony (UNC): 19 points, 5 rebounds
Brandon Robinson (UNC): 13 points, 4 assists
Garrison Brooks (UNC): 9 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks
Payton Pritchard (ORE): 19 points, 6 assists
Will Richardson (ORE): 17 points
Chris Duarte (ORE): 16 points, 7 rebounds
UNC Bench Efficiency Must Improve for ACC Play
North Carolina features one of the nation's most dynamic starting lineups, led by freshman sensation Cole Anthony and upperclassmen Garrison Brooks and Brandon Robinson. Freshman post player Armando Bacot has also started to emerge as a high-impact player, a trend that continued Friday.
What the Tar Heels have lacked is a reliable weapon off the bench.
The three most-used reserves against the Ducks—Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce and Andrew Platek—combined to make just five of their 25 attempts from the field (20.0 percent).
It's been a consistent issue in the season's opening weeks. Keeling (35.0 field-goal percentage entering Friday), Pierce (36.8 percent) and Platek (43.3) have all struggled with their shooting efficiency. Having a series of volume scorers come off the bench can make for a volatile offense.
That's especially true when you consider Anthony (38.5 percent) is still working on his shot selection at the collegiate level. It's made for a streaky UNC offense so far.
The Tar Heels were able to overcome those issues during the season's early stages, but it's an area in need of improvement as the schedule gets tougher moving forward.
Rebounding Remains Most Pressing Concern for Oregon
The Ducks don't feature a true post presence in a rotation that includes ample athleticism but a lack of size, and it's led to problems cleaning up the defensive glass.
Oregon entered the game 277th in the country in opposing offensive rebound percentage (31.8), per KenPom. Almost one of every three rebounds while it's playing defense is recovered by the other team.
That issue was on display over the past two days: Gonzaga grabbed 13 offensive boards in the semifinals, and UNC added 19 more Friday.
Finding a solution won't be simple because the roster doesn't feature a dominant rebounder. All five players must buy into crashing the defensive glass on missed shots to limit second chances for opponents.
Most of the other underlying numbers are strong, so Oregon could emerge as a major threat both in the Pac-12 and on a national level if head coach Dana Altman can fix the defensive rebounding woes.
One of the toughest stretches of North Carolina's schedule continues Wednesday night when it returns home to the Dean E. Smith Center to face off with the undefeated No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Oregon is also heading back home to Matthew Knight Arena to battle the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Dec. 7.