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UNC vs. Portland - Player of the Game: Pete Nance

The veteran newcomer is finding his groove within the offense.

NCAA Basketball: Phil Knight Invitational-North Carolina at Portland Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Tar Heels battled with a relentless Portland team for a full 40 minutes. After taking an early 18-8 lead, Portland responded with a 10-0 run to tie it. From that point on, the game was tightly contested, with neither team leading by more than five points until there were two minutes remaining. The Heels managed to ice it at the free throw line and come away with an 89-81 victory.

In the first half, Caleb Love looked like a shoe-in for POTG, making all the right decisions en route to his most efficient half of the season thus far. Love had an excellent showing, scoring 23 points on 10-15 shooting to go along with 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 rebounds. However, Pete Nance was the guy Portland simply never found an answer for.

Nance put together a monstrous effort offensively, matching his career high with 28 points. His five made three-pointers (5-8 from deep) were also a career high, as he added seven rebounds as well. The Heels got Nance involved in myriad ways, whether it was rolling off a screen for a corner three or having him back down an under-sized defender. He has tremendous shooting touch and a knack for scoring the basketball, and it showed on Thursday.

It’s been encouraging to see how comfortable Nance continues to look playing with this team. After mostly deferring to others through the first couple games, he’s been much more aggressive in hunting his shots. While Nance is a different player than Brady Manek, his ability to run through screens to get himself open for quick trigger threes was reminiscent of what made Manek so lethal last season. When paired with his arsenal of post moves around the basket, Nance is not an easy player to matchup with.

Defensively, Nance was extremely vocal and even demonstrative at times, imploring his team to turn up the intensity. Overall, there was plenty left to be desired on that side of the ball, but the Heels managed to lock in and get stops on some key possessions, and Nance was often the catalyst.

What made Nance’s performance even more impressive was his clutch shooting. Four of his eight field goal makes either tied the game or gave Carolina the lead in the second half, the most important of which being an and-one jumper with just under five minutes remaining. He also knocked down some big free throws in the closing minutes to help put it away. Nance’s experience and leadership were clearly on display in this one.