No. 20 Tar Heels, bench crush outmanned ETSU
Rashawn Rembert’s airball from 15 feet at the halftime buzzer provided a fitting end to the first half for East Tennessee State Saturday.
No. 20 North Carolina held the Buccaneers to 12 points, which set the mark for the lowest output ever by an opponent in a half at the Smith Center and for an opponent at any site in the Roy Williams era, and the Tar Heels cruised to a 78-55 win.
It UNC’s only non-televised game this season, but those outside the Smith Center didn’t miss anything in the way of suspense. With 4:48 left in the first half, UNC (7-2) led 34-4. At one point, the short-handed Bucs (2-5), who only had seven scholarship players available, turned it over four straight times and went 2 1/2 minutes without attempting a shot.
“It was an unusual game to say the least,” Williams said. “You feel bad for Murry (Bartow, the ETSU coach). He’s got his point guard out, he had two guys that they suspended, and another guy that is out of the semester.”
As exam-week opponents go, ETSU was no organic chemistry test. But the Tar Heels also helped themselves by assisting on 30 of 31 baskets — the lone exception was when P.J. Hairston threw an alley-oop to Leslie McDonald, who couldn’t convert the lay-up but put back his own miss.
“It shows that when we move the ball we’re very successful,” Williams said.
Starting guards Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland both had seven assists and two turnovers, while Luke Davis had five assists and no turnovers off the bench. Ten Tar Heels recorded at least one assist and one steal in the game.
“I believe we’re a very unselfish team,” Reggie Bullock said. “We try to share the ball to the best of our ability. We always try to find the open shooters and get the ball inside to the big man to finish strong.”
Bullock, who scored the team’s first seven points on three straight possessions, took just four shots the rest of the way.
The bench finished with 45 points and the top two scorers were reserves. McDonald led the team in scoring for the second straight game, hitting 4 of 8 from behind the arc and recording 14 points in 16 minutes, and freshman Brice Johnson, who has scored in double-figures in four straight games, had 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting. Bullock led the starters with 10.
“Myself personally, and as a team, we’ve progressed and really gotten to know each other’s games well enough so that our chemistry’s starting to click,” said Paige, who was back after missing the last game with a jammed shoulder.
UNC actually trailed 2-0 after 2 ½ minutes as the Tar Heels missed four outside shots against ETSU’s zone. But while UNC continued to shoot 3’s — the Tar Heels finished 11 of 31 — it also started to go inside and to convert in transition, leading to the eventual blowout. The lead grew to 36 in the second half before the Bucs closed on a 13-2 run.
“Just because the other team plays zone doesn’t mean we have to shoot the outside shot,” Williams said. “We do have to have better balance.”
Bullock and P.J. Hairston helped hold ETSU’s Lester Wilson, the country’s leading freshman scorer at 19.7 points per game, to 13 points on 5 of 19 shooting.
NOTES — UNC is taking the next week off for exams. The Tar Heels will next host East Carolina, which is coached by former UNC guard Jeff Lebo, on Dec. 15. … Joel James got his second straight start at center. He finished with five points and two rebounds in 20 minutes, and Williams said the position is still up for grabs. … The previous record for fewest points in a half was N.C. State with 13 in ’08. Clemson, with 39 points in ’95, holds the Smith Center record for fewest points in a game.
No. 20 UNC 78, ETSU 55
Percentages: FG .339, FT .500. 3-Point Goals: 7-24, .292 (Rembert 3-7, Wilson 3-13, Barrueta 1-1, Harris 0-1, Gadsden-Gilliard 0-1, Stramaglia 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 3 (Rembert, Harris, Walton). Turnovers: 22 (Stramaglia 7, Rembert 5, Walton 3, Gadsden-Gilliard 3, Halvorsen, Barrueta, Harris, Wilson). Steals: 9 (Rembert 3, Walton 2, Halvorsen 2, Harris, Wilson). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .425, FT .714. 3-Point Goals: 11-31, .355 (McDonald 4-8, Strickland 2-4, Hairston 2-6, Bullock 2-7, Paige 1-5, Tanner 0-1). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 3 (McDonald, James, Hairston). Turnovers: 14 (Strickland 2, McDonald 2, Bullock 2, Paige 2, Moody, Tokoto, Johnson, Robinson, Hairston, James). Steals: 13 (Hairston 2, McAdoo 2, Tokoto 2, Davis, Paige, Johnson, James, Bullock, Strickland, McDonald). Technical Fouls: None.
A—17,307. Officials—Gary Maxwell, Brian Shey, Alan Spainhour.