Tar Heels Rally Late to Defeat Buckeyes

NEW YORK, N.Y. – For much of the game Ohio State seemed to have all the answers to whatever North Carolina threw the way of the Buckeyes.

Pete Nance and RJ Davis had other ideas down the stretch as the Tar Heels rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half and got the game into overtime before delivering the knockout punch in the extra session to defeat Ohio State 89-84 on Dec. 17 in the opening game of the CBS Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden.

UCLA defeated Kentucky 63-53 in the nightcap.

The Buckeyes were seemingly in control with a 66-55 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in regulation inside the iconic venue that was largely tinted in Carolina Blue that gave the impression of a home game for the Tar Heels.

And UNC used that to its advantage by putting together a 15-6 run, thanks to a stifling full-court defense, and forcing Ohio State into some mistakes that proved costly.

After closing to within 71-70 with 3:58 to go, Davis connected on a 3-pointer just over two minutes later to give the Tar Heels a 75-74 lead with 1:29 left to play. It was the first lead for UNC since the opening minutes of the contest.

OSU’s Zed Key gave the lead back to the Buckeyes when he connected on his second 3-pointer of the game to give his team a 77-75 advantage with 31 seconds remaining.

North Carolina standout Armando Barcot’s layup tied the game momentarily, but Brice Sensabaugh’s jumper in the lane with two seconds left gave the lead back to the Buckeyes.

It would prove to be the final lead of the game for Ohio State.

The Tar Heels took a timeout to set up a play that moved the ball to midcourt with 1.2 seconds left and taking another timeout. The ensuing play was enough to allow Leaky Black to lob the inbound pass to Nance for  a turnaround jumper from the left corner just ahead of the buzzer to tie the game for the final time and send the game to the extra period.

North Carolina, which had dropped each of its last four games before its trip to New York, outscored the Buckeyes 10-5 in overtime to seal the victory and improve to 8-4 on the season with the triumph. OSU fell to 7-3 with the loss.

A last-ditch effort to tie the game fell by the wayside for the Buckeyes and Davis’ two free throws sealed the win for the Tar Heels.

The comeback by UNC seemed unlikely as the Tar Heels struggled from the floor in the first half by connecting on just one of nine shots from behind the arc in the first 20 minutes. They finished with just six of 28 3-pointers in the game.

“In the first half, (OSU) were outrebounding us, being more physical with us,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said after the game. “They were getting more loose balls. They were beating us to everything.”

OSU, meanwhile, was successful on seven of 15 long-range shots in the first half that allowed the Buckeyes take a 44-35 lead at the intermission on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Justice Sueing.

Bacot led all scorers in the game with 28 points while adding a game-high15 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. 

“Shout-out to the fans,” said Barcot after the game. “Probably 15,000 or 16,000 Carolina fans, and seeing all the white and Carolina Blue, that really gave us a bump. They were all into it. My hat’s off to our fans.”

Bacot was joined in double figures by Caleb Love, who tallied 22 points and a team-best seven assists, and Davis, who finished with 21 points for the Tar Heels.

Ohio State had four players reach double digits in scoring with Sensabaugh, a freshman, leading the way with 22 points and teammate Bruce Thornton adding 17 points. Both standouts reached career-highs in scoring with their performances against North Carolina. Sueing and Key finished with 16 and 11 points, respectively, for the Buckeyes.
Sueing pulled down a team-high nine rebounds and Sensabaugh added eight caroms in the game.