UNC Basketball: Takeaways From The Jumpman Invitational

The UNC Basketball program faced No. 7 Oklahoma in Charlotte looking for a NCAA Tournament resume-building victory. Here are some takeaways from the 81-69 win.
Jumpman Classic: North Carolina v Oklahoma
Jumpman Classic: North Carolina v Oklahoma / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

For the second consecutive game, I was lucky enough to attend another neutral site contest for the UNC Basketball program as the Tar Heels faced No. 7 Oklahoma in the Jumpman Invitational. As with the CBS Sports Classic, I wanted to give my takeaways from the game after being in attendance.

Unlike in Atlanta, it was much more of a pro-Carolina crowd, as it should be playing less than 150 miles from the friendly confines of the Dean Smith Center. However, the pre-game excitement just didn't feel right. The passing of Eric Montross is still fresh on the minds of fans, players, and everyone associated with the UNC Basketball program. Jones Angell and the Tar Heel Sports Network opened the evening with a wonderful tribute that will bring tears to your eyes.

The Montross references didn't stop there. The UNC Basketball program came out for warmups wearing shirts that had "Montross" and "00" on the back. An older gentleman spent most of the pregame walking around the lower bowl of Spectrum Arena holding a poster with a picture of Eric on it that read, "Eric, Enjoy the Courts in Blue Heaven, RIP!!!"

And, of course, there was a pre-game moment of silence for the former UNC Basketball legend as well. Lights were dimmed, and you could truly feel the emotion in the building at that point as you could hear a pin drop. Eric was a part of every one of us. Whether it was as a former player, alumni, or just a fan, he truly represented what the Carolina Family is, and you could feel it in Charlotte on Wednesday night.

On to the game...

It didn't quite have the feel of the Elite Eight-type atmosphere that was in Atlanta between Kentucky and North Carolina, but it did have the feel of a big game and one that felt like the Tar Heels desperately needed to win to avoid going into the Christmas Break on a three-game losing streak. While it got off to a slow start, with neither team scoring in the first two minutes and 15 seconds, RJ Davis (because who else) opened the night with a three-pointer from the corner, and the crowd erupted, signaling just who the home team was even though the Tar Heels were wearing their road blues.

After that, it was pretty much just a matter of keeping Oklahoma at arm's length away. It felt like North Carolina was in control of the entire game, leading by as many as 12 in the first half at 31-19. Take away two fouls on three-point shooters from Jae'lyn Withers, and the margin could have been a lot more. At any point, it felt like the Tar Heels were ever so close to running the Sooners out of the gym, but it just never got to that point as Oklahoma made some tough shots to hang around within the 7-11 point margin most of the game.

The crowd was lively and into the game all evening, getting louder when they knew it was a crucial possession, especially defensively. At one point in the second half, Cormac Ryan appeared poised to earn a charge call until the officials called a block (it was a charge, by the way). The crowd immediately responded with a loud "boo," and in what we've learned to be the typical Ryan way, he immediately popped up and started asking for the Tar Heel crowd to get louder to voice their disapproval of the questionable call, and of course, they did.

It was great to get a quality win on a neutral site and one that will most likely be a quadrant one win come the end of the season. That's a resume-building win for a team (and program) that has had few of those in the last several years. They have several now this season, and it isn't even Christmas yet.

There were a lot of positives from Wednesday night, and we can talk about RJ Davis every single night at this point. By the way, how was he NOT named to a pre-season All-ACC team? Who is doing the voting on those things? Another outing of 23 or more points, becoming the first Tar Heel since Tyler Hansbrough to score that many points (or more) in seven consecutive games.

The Sooners were able to cut the deficit to as little as five late in the second half, but Hubert Davis called a set play for RJ Davis off an Oklahoma free-throw attempt, and once again, RJ delivered, hitting a huge three from the wing to push the margin back out to eight and out of reach for good.

We even had positive minutes from the bench in a game involving a top-10 opponent, as the UNC Basketball bench provided 45 minutes, including 12 from Zayden High, who continues to show he has a high motor and will be near the basketball at all times. Seth Trimble showed us again he's one of the best defenders on the floor and provided the Tar Heels with 22 quality minutes off the bench as well.

A solid defensive performance that included holding Oklahoma to their lowest point total of the season might have hidden the one glaring issue this team currently has: it got out-rebounded... again. This time 41-34 on the boards. That is one area this team has to work on over the break and headed into conference play to take its level from good to great.

Overall, it was a great win in Charlotte for the UNC Basketball program on a very emotional night for everyone. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Montross family as they venture through this very difficult time of their lives.

Next. UNC Basketball defeats No. 7 Oklahoma in the Jumpman Invitational. UNC Basketball defeats No. 7 Oklahoma in the Jumpman Invitational. dark

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