Shocked in Paradise

NASSAU, Bahamas – North Carolina’s anticipated return to prominence got off to a bumpy start on Friday as the Tar Heels dropped its first preseason exhibition game to the Providence Storm, 84-83, at the Sir Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.

Ernest Saunders connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing with 18.1 seconds to electrify the local crowd of 200 and finalize the scoring. On UNC’s final possession, junior guard Marcus Paige broke his man down off the dribble and drove down the left side of the lane, but his driving shot was off the mark. A pair of offensive rebounds and attempted putbacks off the right side failed to fall for the Tar Heels.

“We made a tremendous number of mistakes,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said after the loss.

Sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks paced UNC with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Freshman wing Justin Jackson and sophomore center Kennedy Meeks both scored 10 points. Paige was limited to nine points on 3-of-15 shooting, including a 2-of-9 effort from 3-point range.

UNC shot 45.0 percent (36-of-80) from the floor, a woeful 12 percent from beyond the arc (3-of-25) and just 42.1 percent from the free throw line (8-of-19). The Tar Heels outrebounded the Storm by a narrow 46-43 margin (19-17 on the offensive glass).

Keno Burrows led the Storm with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while DeAndre Ayton added 17 points and 18 rebounds (8 offensive).

Ayton, who was born in Nassau, is the No. 1 ranked player in the's 2017 rankings. The 6-foot-11, 205-pound forward currently plays for San Diego (Calif.) Balboa City School.

The Tar Heels led 78-70 with three minutes to play, but the Storm answered with a 7-0 spurt to pull within one point.

UNC increased its lead to 82-79 with 2:04 to play after Paige secured a long offensive rebound and found Desmond Hubert (8 pts, 6 rebs) underneath for a dunk. The Tar Heels, playing with all three freshmen – Jackson, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry - on the floor, failed to make the necessary plays to close out the game.

Berry was called for a 10-second violation with 1:35 to play and UNC nursing a three-point lead. UNC forced an errant jumper on the ensuing possession, but Pinson was unable to grab the rebound and Providence cut its deficit to 82-81 on Eugene Bain’s jumper from the right corner.

Meeks missed one of two free throws on the next possession, and after Jackson came up with the rebound after a strong defensive play in the post, UNC appeared in good shape as Pinson was fouled in transition with a two-point lead.

The freshman wing missed both free throws, however, to set up the game-winning theatrics.

“They were more aggressive than we were and we didn’t make plays down the stretch,” Williams said. “We were 2-of-6 from the free throw line in the last couple of minutes. We had a backcourt violation because we don’t get the ball up the court and then failed to get the guy picked up that made the last three down there. So it was a lot of mistakes.”

UNC built its largest lead just before halftime at 41-31. Providence closed the first half on a 9-0 run and took its largest lead at 50-45 early in the third quarter.

Junior forward Brice Johnson was limited to six points on 3-of-4 shooting in seven minutes of action after spraining his right ankle in the second quarter. He did not return.

The Storm is one of a handful of local teams – with various players moving across the rosters - participating in the 6th Annual BTC “Summer of Thunder” Classic against various NCAA programs.

UNC plays the Bahamas All-Stars on Saturday at 5pm. Recommended Stories

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