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MENS BASKETBALL


North Carolina 81, Oklahoma 69

College Basketball

By STEVE REED
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - RJ Davis scored 23 points, Armando Bacot added 14 points and eight rebounds and No. 11 North Carolina handed seventh-ranked Oklahoma its first loss of the season 81-69 at the Spectrum Center.

Cormac Ryan had 13 points and Harrison Ingram added 11 for the Tar Heels (8-3), who snapped a two-game losing streak.

Otega Oweh had 23 points and Javian McCollum had 14 for Oklahoma (10-1), which never led. The Sooners’ loss leaves No. 3 Houston, No. 20 James Madison and No. 25 Ole Miss as the only unbeaten teams in Division I basketball.

It was the seventh straight game Davis has led the Tar Heels in scoring. He came into the game averaging 21.6 points per game.

The Sooners cracked The Associated Press Top 10 this week for the first time since February 2021, but struggled from the onset in their first meeting with North Carolina since a 72-60 loss in the 2009 NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.

North Carolina’s defense gave Oklahoma fits in the early going, holding the Sooners to 0 for 5 shooting from the field and forcing four turnovers while building a 12-2 lead. Davis got it going early with eight points during that stretch, including two 3s.

The Tar Heels led 36-28 at the break, holding the Sooners to 32.3% shooting from the field and 1 of 10 on 3-pointers.

North Carolina extended its lead to 14 with 11 1/2 minutes left when Bacot brought the crowd to its feet, drilling a 3-pointer from the corner — only the third of his five-year career — and Davis scored on a drive to the hole.

But Oklahoma started to heat up from deep and Oweh made two free throws to cut the lead to five with three minutes to go. Davis answered with a clutch 3-pointer, his fifth of the game, from the right wing to push the lead back to eight and the Sooners never threatened again.

The Tar Heels shot 41% from beyond the arc against a Sooners team that entered the game fourth in the nation in 3-point defense, limiting their opponents to 25.6% shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Oklahoma: This was clearly the toughest test this season for the Sooners, who had stormed to a 10-0 start despite being picked to finish 12th out of 14 teams in the Big 12. They fell behind early and struggled to get back in it on a poor shooting night.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels had a much better flow on offense than its previous two games with unselfish passes leading to open looks. This was a big confidence boost for the Tar Heels following losses to Connecticut and Kentucky.

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December 20, 2023






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