UNC finds balance in dominant victory against Portland

Watch UNC's postgame press conference after win over Portland

UNC's Roy Williams, Luke Maye and Theo Pinson talk with reporters following the Tar Heels' PK80 Tournament win over Portland.
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UNC's Roy Williams, Luke Maye and Theo Pinson talk with reporters following the Tar Heels' PK80 Tournament win over Portland.

By halftime here on Thursday, Theo Pinson had put together a very Pinson-like statistical line: Nine points, seven rebounds, four assists. He had done a little bit of everything by then, including helping the ball boys wipe on the sweat on the court at the Moda Center.

The Tar Heels then led Portland by 13 points, and they were well on their way to a 102-78 victory in the first game of PK80 Invitational, the Nike-sponsored tournament that is honoring Phil Knight's 80th birthday. UNC's first game in this tournament wasn't supposed to be all too challenging.

And, well, it was not. The Tar Heels' lead grew to 27 points three minutes into the second half while the home-team Pilots, a West Coast Conference team that won but 11 games a year ago in coach Terry Porter's first season, struggled to compete.

And yet for UNC this was an opportunity to learn some things about itself, as this entire extend west coast trip has been. One of the lessons on Thursday, undoubtedly, was of the importance, and the preference, for balance.

During their 96-72 victory at Stanford on Monday night, the Tar Heels mostly relied on two players. Indeed, it was the Joel Berry and Kenny Williams Show for most of the first 30 minutes of that game. UNC benefited from an opposite approach here on Thursday.

Four different players scored UNC's first eight points – a contrast to the victory at Stanford, where Williams scored the Tar Heels' first 14 consecutive points. At halftime against Portland, five UNC players had scored at least five points, and none of them more than had scored more than nine.

The game became something of a clinic. UNC (4-0), which will play either Arkansas or Oklahoma in the second day of the tournament on Friday, scored with efficiency inside of the paint, where it finished with 52 points. It ran its offense at will on the perimeter, as well, with Pinson at the center of a lot of the success.

In one moment, Pinson found himself on the inside when the ball came into hands. He caught it and released it in one quick moment, setting up his teammate, Garrison Brooks, for an easy dunk. Early in the second half, Pinson set up both of the Tar Heels' first two 3-pointers after halftime.

Berry, who finished with 18 points, made the first of those, and Williams the second, after Pinson quickly passed to him. Those 3s were part of UNC's 18-5 run during the first 3 ½ minutes after halftime – a run that helped the Tar Heels put the game away with little drama.

Berry and Williams (17 points) were two of five UNC players who scored in double figures. Among them was Andrew Platek, the freshman guard who finished with 10 points – his first college game in double figures.

Luke Maye, off to an especially strong start to his junior season, finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. It was his second double-double in UNC's four games, and the third time this season he has scored at least 20 points.

With less than five minutes remaining, UNC's lead was nearly 30 points. Its clinic continued, and the Tar Heels finished with more than 90 points for the third consecutive game. In the final seconds the only question was whether UNC would score 100 points.

A small contingent of UNC fans began chanting, “We want biscuits,” a reference to a promotion back in North Carolina in which Bojangles offers discounted biscuits when the Tar Heels score at least 100 points. As soon as the chant commenced, Shea Rush obliged. His 3-pointer gave UNC its 100th point.

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter