Not even nine hours before Northwestern and North Carolina tipped off on Monday night in Kansas City, the Tar Heels were the No. 1 team in the country.
So for the Cats, commend a strong first half and acknowledge what was perhaps an expected result: a 80-69 win for North Carolina.
Northwestern started off strong, staying right with North Carolina for the majority of the first 20 minutes. The Heels built a 10-point lead not even six minutes into the game, but the Cats roared back with a 9-0 run — three straight 3-pointers by Scottie Lindsey, Aaron Falzon and Tre Demps to come within a point. Things stayed close from there, and Alex Olah tied the game at 27 with a free throw with seven minutes till halftime. Another Lindsey 3-pointer gave the Cats their first lead, and three more points from Lindsey shortly thereafter boosted Northwestern's lead to six. But North Carolina turned on the jets in the half's final four minutes, going on a 14-1 run to soar back into the lead with a seven-point halftime edge.
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Demps, though, nearly erased that lead all by himself at the outset of the second half, scoring 10 points in two and a half minutes to make it just a two-point game at 48-46. But again, North Carolina went on a big surge, this one a 12-2 run to bump its lead back to a dozen points. With a little more than eight and a half minutes to play, the Heels' edge was at 20, only dipping into single digits once more before game's end.
Demps finished as the high man for Northwestern, scoring 21 points. Bryant McIntosh had 14 points and matched a career high with nine assists, but he had an ugly night shooting the ball, going 3-for-15 from the field. Lindsey had 11 points, and Olah scored 10.
The Cats shot significantly better from 3-point range and didn't trail by much in field-goal and free-throw percentages. But the Heel's held a 39-25 rebounding advantage, grabbing 13 offensive boards, and a 30-22 points-in-the-paint edge.
Northwestern fell to 3-1 with the loss in its marquee non-conference matchup of the season. The Cats will stay in Kansas City and play Missouri on Tuesday night.