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UNC vs. Portland: Game Preview

The Tar Heels open the Phil Knight Invitational against Portland

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels open the PK80 - Phil Knight Invitational against the University of Portland on Thanksgiving Day. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:30 PM ET at the Moda Center, home of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, and will air on ESPN.

This will be the first meeting between the two schools, and the first of three games in the PK80 Invitational for Carolina. The Tar Heels will potentially play against two Power Five opponents, including a possible game against No. 4 Michigan State in the bracket championship.

Take a look at the “Victory Bracket,” via PK80 Invitational (click to enlarge):


The Portland Pilots are led by second year head coach Terry Porter. Porter, a two-time NBA All-Star with the Portland Trail Blazers, has been on basketball sidelines since his retirement from the NBA in 2002. He has a collegiate head coaching record of 13-23, leading the Pilots to a 11–22 last season.

Philipp Hartwich is the top returning starter from last season. Hartwich, a seven-foot-two senior, is averaging 12.0 rebounds per game so far this season. Last year, he averaged 5.0 in 26 starts and 30 appearances.

Portland also returns two senior guards, Rashad Jackson and D’marques Tyson, that started over a dozen games for the Pilots last year.

Josh McSwiggan, a six-foot-seven sophomore, is leading the way for Portland so far this season. In three starts, he is averaging 14.3 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. McSwiggan is shooting 40.6 percent from the floor, including 42.1 percent from three point range.

Portland stumbled out of the gate this season against neighbor Portland State. Portland held a couple of nine-point leads in their season opener, but could not finish. The Pilots held a seven-point lead with 2:33 left in the game after a couple of Franklin Porter free throws, however Portland State scored 12 unanswered points to hand Portland a 80-75 loss.

Portland took care of business against NAIA opponents Walla Walla University Wolves and Oregon Tech Hustlin' Owls.

NCAA Basketball: Portland at Brigham Young
Rashad Jackson (3) last season versus BYU
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

McSwiggan, Tyson, and Jackson each had 12 points in leading Portland to a 89-52 victory over Walla Walla. Hartwich had 10 points to go along with his 10 rebounds.

Against Oregon Tech, McSwiggan had 16 points to lead the Pilots in their 86-59 win. Jackson and freshman forward Tahirou Diabate also scored in double figures for Portland.

Projected Portland Pilots Lineup

Player Number Height Position Class
Player Number Height Position Class
JoJo Walker 2 6-1 G Freshman
Franklin Porter 13 6-4 G Redshirt Sophomore
Josh McSwiggan 11 6-7 F Redshirt Sophomore
Tahirou Diabate 14 6-9 F Freshman
Philipp Hartwich 15 7-2 C Senior

North Carolina

It was not until the 13:30 mark of the first half against Stanford that someone other than Kenny Williams scored for the Tar Heels. Prior to Brandon Huffman’s two free throws, all of Carolina’s 14 points were scored by Williams.

NCAA Basketball: Northern Iowa at North Carolina
Have a day, Kenny Williams.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Both Williams and Joel Berry II shot the lights out for the Tar Heels Monday evening in their 96-72 victory over Jerod Haase’s Stanford squad. Williams finished with a career high 20 points, going 7-11 from the field, including 6-8 from three.

Berry shook off all the rust that was seen in his game versus Bucknell. He finished with 29 points, the second-most of his career, on 10-19 shooting from the field, including 5-11 from deep.

Even with the 96-72 victory, the Tar Heels must continue to improve in some areas. Carolina won the turnover battle by five, but 14 turnovers is certainly too many with experienced ball handlers.

In the frontcourt, the young big men racked up their fair share of fouls. Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, and Brandon Huffman all committed four fouls. These guys are still getting acclimated to the college game, and with veterans on the Stanford side, there were bound to be some fouls against the freshmen.

However, there were good aspects of their game, especially from Manley and Huffman missing just one shot combined from the field. With just over a month to go until conference play, the freshman bigs must work on being more disciplined on the defensive side of the ball.

The PK80 Invitational will give those freshman some big time exposure in a tournament setting against quality opponents. Against Portland, Coach Roy Williams may continue to fine-tune his lineups and substitutions prior to any potentially bigger matchups later in the tournament.

Projected UNC Tar Heels Lineup

Player Number Height Position Class
Player Number Height Position Class
Joel Berry II 2 6-0 G Senior
Kenny Williams III 24 6-4 G Junior
Theo Pinson 1 6-6 F/G Senior
Luke Maye 32 6-8 F Junior
Garrison Brooks 15 6-9 F Freshman