by RENALDO DORSETT
The biggest fan-base at the Battle 4 Atlantis also has be the most disappointed fan-base right now after they witnessed their beloved Tar Heels fall in the tournament opener.
Alexander Barlow and Kelan Martin led the Butler with 17 points apiece as the Bulldogs scored an 74-69 win over the no.6 ranked UNC Tar Heels at the Imperial Arena.
Roosevelt Jones added 12 points, Kellen Dunham struggled from the field but still finished with 11 points, while Kameron Woods added eight points and 13 rebounds.
Marcus Paige led the Tar Heels with a game-high 18 points, Brice Johnson finished with 11 and Isiah Hicks added 10.
North Carolina led 35-32 at half, but shot just 10-22 from the line in the second half (45 percent) while Butler heated up from beyond the arch.
Barlow made two threes early in the second half, the second of which gave Butler the lead for good, 38-37.
“We knew as a team we needed to come out and have a good start to the second half,” he said, “We knew we had to get on them early, I was lucky enough to hit a couple shots, the fans got some juice, the guys got some juice and we were able to get some momentum going.”
The Bulldogs lead grew to as much as 14 with just over eight minutes left to play in the second half, but Paige would spark the UNC rally and eventually brought them within a single possession, 69-66.
Butler, who didn’t make a field goal in the last four minutes of the game, was able to protect the lead at the line, where they shot 17-23 (74 percent) in the half.
Andrew Chrabascz split a pair at the line to extend lead to four, 70-66 with 31.8 left to play and UNC’s comeback hopes ended when Johnson threw an errant pass on a kick-out, intended for Paige.
Bulldogs interim head coach Chris Holtmann said it remains to be seen where the win placed his team in the national conversation.
“That’s for other people to decide,” he said, “We are trying to take care of what’s in front of us and do the very best with it. This is a very proud program with tremendous heritage and I think our guys were excited for this opportunity at this stage.”
It was the second loss for the Tar Heels in the Bahamas this year after they lost an exhibition matchup against the Providence Storms this August at the Summer of Thunder.
Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams expressed his disappointment in his team’s effort and preparation.
“[It was] Very disappointing to us. We have wonderful kids I did a poor job of preparing them to match the aggressiveness Butler came to play with,” he said, “They outhustled us. We didn’t shoot the ball well, we didn’t play very well but you have to congratulate them. They outplayed us, definitely outcoached us.”
by RENALDO DORSETT