ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Leaky Black and North Carolina spent last season struggling in late-game situations, fumbling away leads and failing to make a needed play at the most critical of moments.
Maybe the 14th-ranked Tar Heels have learned from that.
Black had a big driving basket at the 1:02 mark followed by a clinching free throw with 5.5 seconds left Tuesday to help UNC hold off Stanford 67-63, sending the Tar Heels to the championship game of the relocated Maui Invitational.
Freshman Caleb Love scored 16 points to lead the Tar Heels (3-0), who won despite 24 turnovers.
“I feel like we're battle-tested,” Black said. “I feel like we’ve been through everything we can possibly have been through going through last year. And I felt like we got some guys that’s willing to learn and to fight when the going gets tough, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Last year marked the first losing season of Hall of Famer Roy Williams' career, which included squandering numerous second-half leads with seven losses by four or fewer points.
Most notably, UNC blew a 10-point lead in the final two minutes of regulation against Clemson to lose in overtime for its first ever loss in Chapel Hill to the Tigers, along with blowing a 13-point lead in the final 4 1/2 minutes of regulation in an overtime loss to rival Duke.
This time, the Tar Heels won a game in which neither team led by more than three in the final 6 1/2 minutes until Black's late free throw.
“I loved how we just kept trying to make it ugly,” Williams said, “but at the same time kept competing.”
Daejon Davis scored 18 points to lead Stanford (1-1), which shot 39% and made 5 of 20 3-point tries. Touted freshman Ziaire Williams finished with 10 points.
“I think we had a plan and a good plan, but their pressure certainly got to us — probably a little bit of fatigue, and we weren’t as efficient offensively,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. “Normally when we keep our turnovers down to 13, we’re going to be pretty good. But we’re usually a little bit more efficient shooting the basketball.”
UNC: The Tar Heels had a promising tournament start by turning a game-opening 13-0 deficit into a blowout win against UNLV. This time, they found themselves in a close fight to the horn and showed enough composure to close this one out.
Stanford: Ziaire Williams had a strong start to his college career with 19 points and eight rebounds in Monday’s first-round win against Alabama. Stanford led by eight late in the first half Tuesday, but the Cardinal shot just 10 of 30 while making 1 of 11 3-pointers after halftime.
“I liked the plays we ran," Haase said, "I liked the intent to what we were doing, but we do have to make those plays as well.”
THE FINAL SEQUENCE
Black came through with his biggest play when he drove into the paint with his left hand then scooped in a layup with his right to increase UNC’s lead to 66-63.
Then, after Spencer Jones missed a straightaway 3, Black grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He missed the first free throw but hit the second, all but ensuring UNC's advance to the Maui final.
The game featured a matchup for Roy Williams against one of his former players and assistants in Haase, who beat his mentor while head coach at UAB but had lost the other four meetings.
The 24 turnovers marked UNC's highest total in a win since having 24 against Ohio in a 2012 NCAA Sweet 16 game that went to overtime, with Williams saying the 24 turnovers “absolutely made me sick.”
UNC shot 50% after halftime and finished with a 43-23 rebounding advantage that led to 18 second-chance points. ... Oscar da Silva had 13 points for Stanford, but Jones had three points and made 1 of 9 3-pointers. ... The Cardinal scored 22 points off UNC's turnovers. ... Black finished with 10 points and seven rebounds as one of five UNC players in double figures. ... UNC improved to 13-0 all-time against the Cardinal. ... The tournament is being played in the North Carolina mountains (and Williams' hometown) instead of its traditional Hawaii setting due to the coronavirus pandemic.
UNC: The Tar Heels advanced to Wednesday’s championship game to face No. 17 Texas.
Stanford: The Cardinal will face Indiana in Wednesday’s third-place game.
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