|Arkansas gets rematch with North Carolina|
North Carolina's run to the national championship last year nearly didn't happen thanks to a feisty Arkansas squad.
Now the Razorbacks will have their chance at revenge when the teams face off in the second round of the Phil Knight 80 Invitational on Friday in Portland, Ore. The winner advances to the championship game of the Victory bracket on Sunday.
"We're just going to take it as another game. Yeah, we did play them last year and we lost to them, but we also have to give them their respect," Arkansas guard Daryl Macon said. "They're national champions. We're just going to go out there and play with the same intensity we did (Thursday in a win over Oklahoma)."
Ninth-ranked North Carolina survived an early scare from Portland in the first round with a dominating second half en route to a 102-78 win. Arkansas battled a tough Sooners squad for 40 minutes but emerged with a 92-83 victory.
The Tar Heels lost key players from last year's national championship team but still return the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, Joel Berry II, as well as postseason darling Luke Maye.
"I've really had a concerted effort on scoring more in the post," Maye said. "We lost three top players in the post. I'm trying to make more shots in the paint and be a presence in there. I've got a long way to go, but I'm getting there."
Maye and Berry were instrumental in North Carolina's opening-round victory. Maye posted a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Berry added 18 points, including a 4-of-9 showing from beyond the 3-point arc.
Kenny Williams added 17 points for the Tar Heels, and Theo Pinson was solid all around with 11 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
"I don't think I've ever had a player get a triple-double, but he might be the first," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said of Pinson.
Macon was lights out for the Razorbacks in their first-round win, dropping 27 points on 7-of-13 shooting with six 3-pointers. Daniel Gafford chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds.
Apart from Macon and leading scorer Jaylen Barford, Arkansas is going to want to get out in transition and run. The Razorbacks, who average 93 points per game, pushed the pace against Oklahoma by scoring 20 points off 19 forced turnovers. They also shot 27 of 33 from the free-throw line.
North Carolina has no problem running, as the team is more of a guard-orientated squad. Maye has the capability to step out and hit the 3-pointer, thus really spreading out defenses and opening up lanes for players such as Pinson to attack.
"It's just something I've been gifted to have my whole life," Pinson said about his offensive prowess. "I just try to be aggressive and (make) plays ... when I get to the basket, good things happen."
When the teams met last year in the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels were down by five with a couple minutes left but rallied for a 72-65 win.
The teams have one common opponent early this season. North Carolina defeated Bucknell 93-81, three days after Arkansas routed the Bison 101-73.