North Carolina score vs. Iowa State takeaway: No. 1 Tar Heels upset by cyclones at Phil Knight Invitational

PORTLAND, Oregon. – Caleb came big – but not this Caleb. Iowa State Senior Caleb Grill had one of the best games of his life, scoring a career-high 31 points and guiding Iowa State to a 70-65 win over No. 1 in the second half. North Carolina in the friday Phil Knight invitation semi final.

Star Tar Heels Caleb Love, meanwhile, had 12 points, but only three in the second half. A UNC team that had flirted with fire by playing close games against mid-sized opponents finally got burned by failing to execute their offense against the power conference’s premier opponent as the Tar Heels (5- 1) have played this season.

Iowa State, which two seasons ago was 2-22, started a second straight 5-0 season under sophomore coach TJ Otzelberger, who is 6-7 against the top 25 teams. from the AP to Iowa State. The Cyclones 5-0 will play either UConn Where Alabama in Sunday’s PKI Championship game.

It’s a result that will lead to significant changes at the top of the upcoming AP Top 25 poll. Do you know what that means. It’s take-out time. We have to start with the Tar Heels.

UNC’s defeat was not at all surprising

When I spoke to UNC senior Leaky Black on Thursday, he warned that he and his teammates could ill afford to keep going flat and thinking they could get away. The good for UNC: the heels didn’t come out flat. Led most of the first half, including 30-21 with 5:36 remaining. Yes, ISU needed an outrageous shooting performance from Grill, but it’s obvious at this point in the season that the Tar Heels aren’t playing with the urgency, collective goal or confidence like they have. to close the last month of last season.

Love also fueled the fire. He’s a willful talker, and on Friday it backfired. The more he chirped at Grill, the more confident Grill became and the more punches he landed.

“He was 4 of 24 coming into the game from 3, he landed a lot of hard shots,” Love told CBS Sports of Grill afterwards. “Crazy punches, deep punches, hand in the face, it didn’t matter. Thanks to him.”

Credit to Love for flipping his cap after trying to throw Grill out of his game for 40 minutes and failing.

“We got rushed in a lot of our actions and we didn’t handle that well,” Love said. “On the defensive end, we weren’t on guard. They had a lot of jump shots, it’s a credit to them, but they played the best game.”

Maybe taking that kind of loss will serve UNC well. He got crushed in four of his previous five wins. Sometimes a loss like this is a furnace in the face that can nudge a team towards better habits.

Otzelberger can’t hold back his emotions

The win is only the third time Iowa State has beaten the No. 1 AP-ranked team in 23 tries. The Cyclones had wins over top-ranked Oklahoma on Jan. 18, 2016, and Wilt Chamberlain-led Kansas on Jan. 14, 1957. Otzelberger told CBS Sports it was the first time he was part of a team that beat a No. 1.

That’s how a raucous celebration like this – in one of the smallest locker rooms I’ve ever seen – materializes.

It’s late November, but thanks to the nature of these multi-team events, upsets are offered and you get March vibes over Thanksgiving weekend. That gives plenty to be thankful for, and the Cyclones showed it. After the dressing room was sprayed, a drenched Otzelberger gushed with emotion during his post-match press conference. He talked about how committed he was to the work, how it was not a stepping stone situation for him.

“It’s for life,” he said with tears in his eyes.

He’s 27-13 in 40 games at Iowa State, and it’s safe to say ISU fans are feeling more optimistic about their program than they have in six or seven years. The Cyclones don’t play nice, don’t want to play nice, but defensively are an insult to every team’s sense of security. The ISU ranks second in turnover percentage – it has overturned possessions 14 times at UNC – and should be considered a tournament-worthy Big 12 team for the second straight season. Remember, ISU went 7-11 in the Big 12 regular season, but entered the NCAA as the No. 11 seed and qualified for the Sweet 16.

Can UNC play at a high level without a bench?

No matter what UNC does to correct its mistakes, I’m starting to wonder if there’s a ceiling on this team because of its personnel. It’s a worrying sign that Hubert Davis may have to revisit the ‘Iron Five’ look this season – playing starters, mostly – because I think that’s bound to result in a few more losses than necessary. Love, Black, Armando Bacot, RJ Davis and Pete Nance all played over 31 minutes against a physical opponent, 28 hours away from a good Portland run. Attrition has set in a bit. That’s a lot to ask. Iowa State looked fresher to close out the game.

Puff Johnson, Seth Trimble, D’Marco Dunn – they’re just not ready to be key contributors at this point. Will that change in the next six weeks? It’s a bit like UNC becoming a Final Four competitor.

Davis didn’t worry afterwards. He said that while much of last season’s squad is back, it’s still a new team that needs to learn lessons and find its way. The personalities are changing, the guys have improved in places, but as a group this team is no longer on par with the UNC team in March.

“Just because you have experience doesn’t mean you’re perfect,” Davis said.

UNC is far from perfect, that’s obvious. The question is if or when he will find elite form as he hasn’t seen it in a single game so far.

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