As the only ranked teams competing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, No. 14 North Carolina and No. 20 Arkansas were favored to reach the Friday championship game. Instead, they will meet in the third-place game at Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Given the short amount of time between the semifinals and the third-place game’s tipoff — Arkansas (4-2) has 17 hours while North Carolina (4-1) has 19 1/2 — both coaches planned to spend their limited minutes focused on their own squad.
The Tar Heels surrendered a nine-point, second-half lead en route to an 83-81 overtime loss against Villanova — and North Carolina coach Hubert Davis noted that his squad fouled Wildcats 3-point shooters three times. That included Villanova’s first possession of overtime, when freshman Elliot Cadeau fouled out and Hakim Hart sank the subsequent three free throws.
“Those are things we can clean up and those are things that we can learn and those are things we can’t do in highly competitive-type games like this,” Davis said. “Those are the difference-makers. It’s the small details. It’s a rebound here, a loose ball there, a missed free throw there, a lack of execution here and there. That’s something … my hope is we don’t do moving forward.”
Meanwhile, Arkansas committed a season-worst 18 turnovers that led to 27 points in an 84-79 loss to Memphis. Equally important to Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman, his players were whistled for three technical fouls that led to five free throws.
“Gotta do a much better job taking care of the basketball,” Musselman said. “Give Memphis a lot of credit for their aggressiveness defensively, jumping into passing lanes. The 18 turnovers, you’re not going to win many basketball games turning the ball over that much.
“We gave up five points off technicals. I mean, it’s a five-point game. … We’ve got a lot of stuff we’ve got to get better at. A lot.”
While the Tar Heels and Razorbacks didn’t live up to their rankings on Thursday, they showcased enough of their skill and athleticism to suggest they’re capable of getting to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond when March rolls around.
North Carolina reached overtime despite having three players foul out and all-Atlantic Coast Conference center Armando Bacot contribute a season-low eight points. However, Stanford transfer Harrison Ingram stepped up with a season-high 20 points and Notre Dame grad transfer Cormac Ryan posted a season-high 18 points.
“Obviously we were disappointed that we didn’t win, but very proud of the effort of the guys,” Davis said. “I thought they competed and the plays that needed to be made, they made them. We just came up short. This is a great learning opportunity for us — for tomorrow and the remainder of the year.
“We’re going to be in these situations again. Just a great learning experience for us.”
The Razorbacks, meanwhile, have had the least amount of rest each day after being the last team to arrive in the Bahamas (following a 6 1/2-hour travel delay).
“The way the schedule has laid out for us — just call it luck,” Musselman said. “But there’s no excuses when you come to this type of tournament. You roll with what the schedule is. So there’s no excuses. Memphis beat us. I want to be perfectly clear. Memphis outplayed us. They beat us.”