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Off the cuff: This was one of those strange games where the teams both deserved and didn't deserve to win.

Stick with me. I do agree with Coach Davis when he says, "I'm disappointed. I thought we played well enough to win."

He's right. Carolina shot better, rebounded better and played more as a team, dishing out 13 assists to teammates compared to five for Villanova.

But, then again, they didn't deserve the win because they never could find an answer for Eric Dixon and Justin Ingram, and they didn't do a good job on the final play of regulation.

Dixon did do most of the damage in the first half with 20 of his career-high 34 points. (BTW, I don't think any player should ever get a career high against the Tar Heels.) Moore scored most of his 16 points in the second half.

On the last play, Coach Davis said the first option was for Cormac Ryan to get the ball and drive to the basket. The Heels wouldn't or couldn't get the ball to him so they went to option two, which was to get the ball to RJ Davis who would drive to the hoop.

He said, and he's right, that 3.3 seconds is enough time to drive to the basket. But, the Heels didn't do that. They did get the ball to Davis but he put up a desperation three that failed.

"They did a good job defensively on the play," Coach Davis said of Villanova. "RJ had to take a tough shot."

Villanova deserved to win because of that play and because they stuck to their gameplan to back (mostly shorter Tar Heels) to the basket and score inside. They also deserved to win because they hit their free throws.

They didn't deserve to win because they shot poorly from the field and needed all those free throws to win. They didn't deserve to win because I don't think that sort of physical play in basketball should be rewarded.

Eleven of the last 14 calls of the game went against Carolina, and despite Villanova being the aggressor (particularly on offense with the isolation play where the Carolina defender continued to get banged into), it was Carolina that committed more fouls and it was Villanova who had 13 more free throw attempts.

Here's hoping that a trend from last year (that happened in this game) will not be a trend this year. Last season, Carolina was 5-6 in games decided by four points or less and in eight of the team's 13 losses last year the Heels led in the 2nd half.

Villanova 83, Carolina 81 (OT)
Depleted Tar Heels fall in overtime

Three North Carolina players fouled out as the Tar Heels took Villanova to overtime before losing a physical game in overtime 83-81 at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. (11/23)

Carolina had no answer for Wildcat big man Eric Dixon, who backed in to score close to the basket or by hoisting the ball in from outside, drilling three three-pointers. He finished with a career-high 34 points to lead all scorers.

And if he, or even other Wildcats, weren't doing that, he was scoring from the free throw line. Carolina faithful got on the referees much of the game as the more physical team, Villanova, ended up shooting 13 more free throws than UNC did.

UNC coach Hubert Davis seemed to agree with booing and screaming Tar Heel crowd. He even complimented the Wildcat players for their pump faking and selling the fouls.

"We did a good job defensively," Coach Davis said. "Unfortunately there were some fouls called that put them on the free throw line."

Indeed there were as Villanova, which shot only 38 percent from the field, was 32 of 36 from the foul line. Carolina, which shot 43 percent, managed only 16 of 23 from the foul line.

The story of the game couldn't be written without mentioning that UNC's Harrison Ingram was the scoring leader with 20 when he fouled out with 3:44 to go in regulation. Two of the fouls were highly questionable as replays showed the Villanova player flopped to draw the foul.

"Three of our players fouled out and we had lineups in there who hadn't had a lot of time together on the floor," Coach Davis said. "But we had our chances in regulation and overtime."

Carolina, who led by as many as nine points in the second half, had just a 63-61 lead after an Ingram bucket with 4:07 to go. Villanova's Justin Moore scored five in a row, putting the Heels in catch-up mode.

That's just what they did as Cormac Ryan, who scored 18, lofted a swished three-pointer from the left corner to tie the game at 68-all with 38 seconds left.

After a rare Dixon missed shot, Carolina had an opportunity to win it with 3.3 seconds left in regulation. After a timeout, the Heels got it to R.J. Davis for a long three-point attempt but it clanked off the back of the rim and the game went to overtime.

Carolina went into the extra period with Ingram and Jae'lyn Withers, both starters, on the bench with five fouls each. Then Elliott Cadeau fouled out by committing the mortal sin of fouling a three-point shooter. That gave Villanova three more free throws and a 71-70 edge.

The game went back and forth until Moore scored, was fouled and hit a free throw to make it 76-74. And the Heels never tied it or took the lead again.

A desperate intentionally missed free throw by Ryan with 2.6 seconds left and the Heels behind 83-81 failed to hit the rim and that ended Carolina's chances. To double the anguish, Ryan injured an ankle on the play. There were no updates to his condition.

Davis ended up the high scorer for the Heels, now 4-1, with 23 points. Carolina plays in the consolation game of the tournament at 1 p.m. Friday.

Box score

(Photo by UNC Sports Information)






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