Playing three games in three days figures to be a great learning experience for teams in the Maui Invitational, and perhaps No. 14 North Carolina is already taking that to extremes.
The Tar Heels will see what else they can uncover in the semifinal round of the tournament when they take on Stanford on Tuesday in Asheville, N.C.
“Three games in three days, we’ll get a chance for a lot of people to play,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “I think you find out a lot more about your team, and one of the things it does, it gives you an opportunity to test your depth.”
The middle game for the Tar Heels has certain sentimental issues. Stanford is coached by Jerod Haase, a former North Carolina assistant coach. Haase also was a Kansas player under Williams. Haase guided Stanford to a 20-12 record last season.
“He was like a father to me when I was at Kansas,” Haase said of Williams.
For North Carolina (2-0), the tournament began by falling into a 13-0 hole to UNLV on Monday before recovering and winning in a 78-51 blowout.
That gave Williams a chance to use one of the coaching maneuvers that he has utilized during his career. He replaced all five starters at the same time to try to alter the momentum.
“I’ll do that a lot,” Williams said. “The best motivator you have is the bench. If you want to play, you have to play better. I think we got our message across.”
Stanford (1-0), playing its opener, followed that by blasting Alabama 82-64.
North Carolina has won all 12 previous meetings with Stanford, including two years ago in the most recent matchup. Only three of the collisions have been decided by single-digit margins. This will be the eighth time that the teams meet on a neutral court.
North Carolina has had a freshman lead the team in scoring in each of the first two games. It was Caleb Love in the opener against College of Charleston and then R.J. Davis in the UNLV game.
Stanford freshman Ziaire Williams had a stellar collegiate debut with 19 points and eight rebounds against Alabama. That helped the Cardinal win a season opener for the 11th year in a row.
North Carolina senior forward Garrison Brooks will be playing his first game since joining the 1,000-point club. On Monday night, he became the 77th player in program history to reach that plateau — and the Tar Heels have more 1,000-point scorers than any program in the country.
The Tar Heels, who’ve won the Maui Invitational four times, are 21-3 all time in games in the tournament, which normally is contested in Hawaii. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event was relocated to this mountain city in western North Carolina, though fans aren’t in attendance.
Stanford is in the Maui Invitational for the first time since 2004.
The Stanford-North Carolina winner meets the Indiana-Texas semifinal winner in Wednesday’s title game. The losing teams meet in the third-place game.
–Field Level Media