No. 4 North Carolina Looks Impressive in Beating No. 14 Wisconsin to Win Maui Invitational; Joel Berry II Named Tournament MVP
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Joel Berry II scored 22 points and was named Tournament MVP and No. 4 North Carolina ran away from No. 14 Wisconsin 71-56 on Wednesday night to win its fourth Maui Invitational title.
Kennedy Meeks went for 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, Isaiah Hicks had 15 points for North Carolina and Justin Jackson added 12. Meeks was also named to the All-Tournament Team along with Berry II
The long, athletic Tar Heels (7-0) ran roughshod through the deep Maui field, so good in the semifinals that Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood called them the “best team in the country.”
North Carolina looked the part again in the title game, dominating Wisconsin (4-2) at both ends of the court.
The Tar Heels held the Badgers to 38 percent shooting and harassed their leading scorer, Bronson Koenig, into a 1-for-13 night.
And there’s this: After their three previous three Maui titles, the Tar Heels went on to win two national championships and reach the Final Four the other time.
Vitto Brown led Wisconsin with 15 points and Ethan Happ had 13.
North Carolina rolled over Chaminade and Oklahoma State in the first two Maui rounds, winning by a combined 75 points and looking like a national title contender.
Wisconsin reached the title game by pulling away from Tennessee and dominating Georgetown on the glass.
The Tar Heels looked like they were headed for another runaway victory at the start of the title game, the Badgers looking like they had been in the sun too long on Kaanapali Beach.
Unable to handle North Carolina’s length on defense or hit shots when they were open, Wisconsin missed its first 11 shots and needed nearly 7 1/2 minutes to score.
The Badgers settled down after their jittery start and cut the lead to four before North Carolina stretched it to 29-20 by halftime.
Berry was the catalyst for North Carolina in the first half and continued to be in the second, scoring and orchestrating the Tar Heels’ offense.
The Tar Heels continued to manhandle the Badgers defensively, highlighted by Brandon Robinson’s track-him-down blocked shot off the backboard on Koenig midway in the second half.
It’s still early in the season, but North Carolina looks like it may be team to beat when March hits, particularly considering forwards Luke Maye and Theo Pinson are out with injuries.
Wisconsin is good, just not Carolina good just yet.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM NAMED
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.