North Carolina continued its Midwest swing with a more preferable result on Monday.
The Tar Heels worked their way past Northwestern 80-69 in the semifinals of the CBE Classic at the Sprint Center and will take on Kansas State in the event’s title game Tuesday at 9 p.m.
A loss at Northern Iowa on Saturday knocked North Carolina from its No. 1 ranking to No. 9 in The Associated Press poll.
The Tar Heels, now 4-1, continue to operate without star guard Marcus Paige, who broke a bone in his right hand earlier this month. But North Carolina was fine without him on Monday, particularly during the game’s critical stretch.
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Northwestern, 3-1, coached by former Duke player and assistant coach Chris Collins, heated up from beyond the arc and took a 35-29 lead at the final media timeout of the first half.
Less than 90 seconds later, the Tar Heels had erased it. Theo Pinson’s three-pointer from the wing restored the lead at 36-35 and was part of a 14-1 North Carolina run that ended the half.
Northwestern sliced the margin to 48-46 on a Tre Demps three-pointer early in the second half, but North Carolina responded with a 7-0 run.
Justin Jackson had 21 points and 12 rebounds for North Carolina. Pinson finished with 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
The Tar Heels and Kansas State will meet for the first time since 1989, when North Carolina beat the Wildcats in a regular season game in Charlotte, N.C.