Men's College Basketball

Huskies defeat Tar Heels in Jimmy V Classic


UConn center Donovon Clingan attempts to block a reverse layup by North Carolina forward Armando Bacat during Tuesday’s Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

The No. 5 UConn Huskies, led by guard Cam Spencer’s 23 points, overpowered the ninth ranked North Carolina Tar Heels to take an 87-76 victory in the second game of the 2023 Jimmy V Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden in front of an announced crowd of 17,873 on Tuesday night. Both teams entered the game with 7-1 records.

The teams traded baskets and the lead early in the first half until UConn was able to pull ahead on a 6-2 run with a layup and two free throws from Spencer. The Huskies led 13-10 with 14:11 on the clock.

What the Huskies couldn’t do was put the Tar Heels away. Though North Carolina never led since holding a brief 8-7 lead early in the game, whenever UConn went on a run in the first half, the Tar Heels chipped away. When UConn guard Tristen Newton hit a three-pointer with 13:25 left in the half, North Carolina guard R.J. Davis answered with one of his own just 13 seconds later.

The Tar Heels did catch the Huskies when forward Armando Bacot was fouled by UConn forward Samson Johnson in the post. Bacot’s two free throws tied the score at 23 a piece with 7:48 remaining in the half.

Then UConn went onto a small run to try to get some separation, but North Carolina answered back with one of their own.

UConn center Donovan Clingan dunks during Tuesday night’s Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

With the score 32-31 in favor of the Huskies with 3:14 remaining in the half, Spencer fired off a three-pointer to put UConn up by four. He then scored on a driving layup. This was followed by teammate Hassan Diarra’s three-pointer and a quick layup in transition after a Tar Heel turnover. In the blink of an eye, the Huskies were on a 10-1 run and held a ten-point 42-32 lead with 1:40 left in the first half.

North Carolina dug in and fought back. Forward Harrison Ingram connected on a jump shot and was fouled by Husky forward Alex Karaban. He missed the free throw but it was rebounded by Bacot, who dunked the put back. A second later, Bacat was assessed a technical foul for taunting. Spencer hit the resulting free shots to give the Huskies an eight point lead. Ingram hit a three-pointer for the Tar Heels just before the clock expired to make the score 44-39 in favor of the Huskies at the half.

Bacat scored a layup when play resumed and was fouled by UConn center Donovan Clingan. Though Bacat missed the free throw, it was Clingan’s third foul and he was sent to the bench.

The Huskies then went on an 8-0 run with a floater from Newton and three pointers from Karaban and guard Solomon Ball. UConn was now up 52-41.

Tar Heels guard Cormac Ryan scored on a layup, then Spencer hit a three-pointer. Like Bacat in the first half, Spencer was assessed a technical foul for taunting. R.J. Davis made both free shots to make the score 55-45 with 17:10 left in the game.

North Carolina forward Armando Bacat scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and dished 5 assists to lead the Tar Heel effort in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

North Carolina continued to try to chip away at the deficit. They got a large boost when Davis hit a three-pointer and then stole the ball on the next possession, making a transition layup. After guard Stephon Castle made a layup, Davis answered with a jump shot of his own. The score was now 65-60 and it looked like the Tar Heels were going to get back into the contest.

Then, both literally and figuratively, the wheels fell off. North Carolina missed 14 of their next 16 shots in the game. Nothing would drop. Layups were missed. Dunks hit the back of the rim and bounced out. Jump shots would rattle around the rim before falling out. UConn, meanwhile, ran up the score. When the carnage was over and the Tar Heels got back on track, it was 83-66 with just 3:06 remaining on the clock.

Though North Carolina finished on a 10-4 run, UConn was trying to run out the clock and maintain their lead. They won 87-76 when the final buzzer sounded.

The Huskies went 34-for-66 from the field (51.5 percent); 10-for-31 in three-point range (32.3 percent); and 9-for-16 from the free throw line (56.3 percent). They turned the ball over eight times which led to seven Tar Heel points.

“I thought we had a pretty good first half. We scored 44 in our first half… I love how we finished it,” said UConn head coach Dan Hurley.

North Carolina went 28-for-63 from the field (44.4 percent); 7-for-20 from beyond the arc (35.0 percent) and 13-for-22 from the charity stripe (59.1 percent). Their seven turnovers led to 14 Husky points.

“I’m upset that we lost, but its eight games in,” said Hubert Davis, North Carolina head coach. “It’s encouraging, from my standpoint, how much more we can get better and how much more we can grow. That’s the encouraging point, and we are going to get better.”

The teams were tied 38-38 in points in the paint. UConn held an 8-6 edge in second chance points and 13-6 lead in fast break points.

The Huskies were led by 23 points from Cam Spencer. Alex Karaban added 18, Tristen Newton scored 14 and Solomon Ball pitched in for 13. Karaban grabbed nine rebounds to lead UConn, while Spencer dished a game-high six assists.

“We know our level and we aren’t at our level because we’re not firing on all cylinders yet,” said Hurley.

The Tar Heels were led by R.J. Davis’s game-high 26 points. Harrison Ingram added 20 and Armando Bacat scored 13. Bacot led all rebounders with 13, while Bacot, Ingram and Elliot Cadeau each had five assists.

“It was a tough game. Both teams were playing hard. At the end of the day, we just gotta knock down those shots. It’s just the little stuff like boxing out. When you’re playing great teams, you can’t afford to let that happen.”

With the win, UConn advances to 8-1 and will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday. The Tar Heels will have some time off before hosting Kentucky on Dec. 16.

The Jimmy V Classic is an annual four-team tournament organized by ESPN Events designed to raise money and awareness for cancer research. First held in 1995, it was named for Jim Valvano, the famed North Carolina State head coach who lost his battle with cancer on April 28, 1993. This was UConn’s first win in the Jimmy V Classic and their fifth appearance overall. The game was the third appearance for the Tar Heels who won it once, an 83-69 win over UMass on Dec. 20, 1996.

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