Strong 2nd half leads Tar Heels to win over Wild­cats

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - College Basketball - BY JONAS POPE IV [email protected]­ald­sun.com Jonas E. Pope IV: 919- 829- 8911, @JEPopeIV

North Carolina used a strong sec­ond half Satur­day to pull away from a feisty David­son team at the Smith Cen­ter.

The Tar Heels de­feated the Wild­cats 82-60, bounc­ing back from an 80-72 loss to Ken­tucky last Satur­day.

Luke Maye fin­ished with 11 points and 14 re­bounds, the 22nd dou­ble­dou­ble for the se­nior from Hun­tersville. He was one of five UNC play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures, joined by Cameron John­son (17), Kenny Wil­liams (12), Gar­ri­son Brooks (11) and Nas­sir Lit­tle, who fin­ished with 10 off the bench.

It was the fourth con­sec­u­tive game that John­son has led the team in scor­ing, de­spite not get­ting his first bas­ket un­til the 6:14 mark of the first half.

“I think we had some guys off the bench who gave us some mo­ments,” coach Roy Wil­liams said. “Those guys gave us a lift.”

Bran­don Robin­son (seven points) and Ster­ling Man­ley (five) joined Lit­tle in giv­ing the home team lots of bench pro­duc­tion.

Nine play­ers scored for UNC and its re­serves outscored the Wild­cats’ bench 24-11.

The Tar Heels (9-3) were in a giv­ing mood, shar­ing the ball at a high level. UNC had 20 as­sists on 26 made field goals against David­son (9-4), which took an early firsthalf lead, but never re­cov­ered from a UNC run be­fore the half.

The Wild­cats went up 24-19 after two free throws from Chapel Hill na­tive Carter Collins, but scored nine points the rest of the first half as the Tar Heels got into an of­fen­sive groove.

The Heels started the game by show­ing fans they worked on their de­fense dur­ing re­cent prac­tices. UNC forced a shot­clock vi­o­la­tion on David­son’s first pos­ses­sion, but the Tar Heels’ of­fense took a while to get click­ing.

UNC had four turnovers in the first four min­utes, three by Brooks, the sopho­more for­ward who quickly found him­self sit­ting next to coach Wil­liams on the bench.

After the first me­dia time­out of the game, the Tar Heels ap­peared to have things to­gether of­fen­sively. UNC scored on seven straight pos­ses­sions to go up 19-15. Dur­ing that run Wil­liams got scor­ing from his team in a va­ri­ety of ways.

Man­ley hit two from the line, fol­lowed by a short jumper from Maye to put the Tar Heels back in front 9-8. Man­ley hit an­other layup and fresh­man Lit­tle and Man­ley scored con­sec­u­tive layups to make it 14-13 in fa­vor of the Tar Heels. Kenny Wil­liams then got into the scor­ing act, knock­ing down a 3 from the right wing fol­lowed by a layup.

David­son, though, wouldn’t go away, shoot­ing 3-for-5 from the field dur­ing the same stretch to stay in strik­ing dis­tance, 19-15.

The bad side of the Tar Heels came back to haunt them as they went 0-for-4 with two turnovers in a four-minute span. Dur­ing that same time, David­son went on a 9-0 run. Brooks would come in and make up for the early turnovers, scor­ing five of North Carolina’s next six points be­fore UNC re­ally caught fire.

North Carolina went on a 10-2 run, high­lighted by a Lit­tle put­back dunk, and closed on a 6-0 run in the fi­nal 58 sec­onds.

John­son fol­lowed Lit­tle’s dunk with a layup and a bucket from the right side of the bas­ket, and knocked down a deep 3 to put North Carolina ahead 36-28 with 1:14 re­main­ing in the half. John­son’s 3 was fol­lowed by an old-fash­ioned three­p­oint play from Maye to end the first half.

UNC held the Wild­cats to 26.7 per­cent shoot­ing from the floor in the first half and forced seven turnovers.

The Tar Heels started the sec­ond half on an 11-4 run and David­son didn’t do it­self any fa­vors, miss­ing four straight bas­kets after start­ing the half 2-for-2 from the floor.

UNC forced an­other shot-clock vi­o­la­tion and John­son re­mained ac­tive on the of­fen­sive end of the floor, scor­ing a layup and chas­ing down an of­fen­sive re­bound that led to two free throws.

The UNC de­fense, which looked like it had dis­cov­ered new life, forced five turnovers in a seven-minute span as the Tar Heels led by as many as 26 in the sec­ond half.

It was the fi­nal game of the cal­en­dar year for the Tar Heels, who were play­ing just their fourth game in 31 days. UNC will host Har­vard on Jan. 2, be­fore open­ing con­fer­ence play at Pitts­burgh on Jan. 5. North Carolina im­proved to 6-0 at home and 8-0 when lead­ing at the half.

North Carolina’s non­con­fer­ence sched­ule has been bru­tal, with games against Michi­gan, Texas, Gon­zaga and Ken­tucky, all in an at­tempt to pre­pare for ACC play.

“I think we’ve played the kind of sched­ule that’s made our guys be at­ten­tive ev­ery game,” Roy Wil­liams said. “And not just go out there and go through the mo­tions, so I hope that helps us.”

ROBERT WIL­LETT rwil­[email protected]­sob­server.com

North Carolina’s Cameron John­son drives against David­son’s KiShawn Prichett (20)) dur­ing the sec­ond half Satur­day at the Smith Cen­ter in Chapel Hill. John­son led all scores with 17 points in the Tar Heels’ 82-60 vic­tory.

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