UNC picked up right where it left off in its win over UCLA with a torrid start and then held off a determined effort from 18th-ranked Florida to knock off the Gators 75-64 in the 5th place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Kennedy Meeks was dominant inside, posting a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds as all five Tar Heel starters scored in double digits. Carolina raced to a 12-0 lead and held Florida scoreless for nearly the first 7 minutes of the game. Justin Jackson and J.P. Tokoto were hitting threes and UNC raced to a 39-23 lead as the Heels shot 58% from the floor and made four out of six from three. Meanwhile the Gators were a horrific 29% from the floor and only 1-15 from three in the first 20 minutes.
After halftime, both teams regressed to the mean, which is often what happens in games like this. UNC opened the second half 2-for-10 from the floor and Florida started hitting some of those threes, and the Gators cut the lead in half within the first five minutes. But then Meeks, Jackson, and Marcus Paige helped right the ship and put Florida back at arms length for most of the second half. Late in the second half, Florida made three triples and cut the lead to seven for the first time since it was 7-0, but Paige was money from the foul line and Carolina did just enough to escape with the 11-point win.
This was one of those situations where if someone said on Tuesday you could have gone through this tournament 2-1 with two wins over ranked teams, you probably would have taken it, no questions asked. But the egg UNC laid against Butler opened up this team to all kinds of questioning that continued despite the two relatively comfortable wins against top-25 opponents. Even in Friday's win, UNC turned the ball over 19 times leading to over 20 points for the Gators, and had nearly as many second-half turnovers as field goals. Still Carolina shot 50% from three, nearly 75% from the line, and out-rebounded Florida 40-38. All in all it was a solid performance in the islands as UNC now stands 5-1 on the season and returns home to face Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday.