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UNC Basketball: Tar Heels knocked out of Phil Knight Invitational behind Caleb Grill’s hot night

It was a miserable Black Friday for UNC athletics.

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

UNC fans didn’t even get a good 15 minutes to settle themselves after the football team’s overtime loss to NC State before the basketball team added insult to injury with a 70-65 loss to Iowa State. The Cyclones went on a 10-0 run as UNC imploded down the stretch as Caleb Grill torched them for 31 points on seven threes.

The Tar Heels shot just 17% (3-18) from beyond the arc themselves, which was no match for Iowa State’s nine made three-pointers. The Cyclones were able to score 21 points off UNC’s 14 turnovers. Although Iowa State turned it over ten times, Carolina was able to just cobble together six points off them.

RJ Davis was UNC’s leading scorer with 15 points. Caleb Love (12) and Armando Bacot (13) joined him in double figures. The shooting numbers were pretty putrid across the board except for Bacot’s 5-6, but their 36% shooting in the second half was not going to cut it when they allowed their opponent to shoot 48% after halftime.

Carolina simply had no answer for Grill, and to a slightly lesser extent Jaren Holmes with his 22 points. Maybe to some extent you have to tip your cap to a guy who is that on fire, but it’s not that simple when the Tar Heels had a lead late and just let it slip away without much of a fight. Prior to Nance’s tip-in at the buzzer, the team’s last field goal was a Leaky Black layup with 3:55 left. Talented teams won’t let you get away with that.

It feels like the team has flirted with this result since the beginning of the season, so it’s hard to be extremely surprised. Better competition in those first few games would have likely rendered similar results. It’s frustrating to know that UNC is a better team than they have shown so far, even if the glimpses of that have been fewer and farther between.

Early season losses are always hard to appropriately react to. It’s difficult to strike the balance of “better now than later” and “well, that shouldn’t have happened” but we’ve all seen this kind of thing plenty of times before with UNC teams that have lofty expectations. It was going to happen sooner or later, and playing a short bench in back to back games was not exactly a recipe for success. Where they go from here is up to them, but hopefully they use it as fuel to get better for the rest of the non-conference schedule.

UNC will try to dust themselves off and come out better on Sunday against the loser of the UConn/Alabama game later tonight.