Remember those Tar Heels who used to like to put up points in bunches, bury 3-pointers and run up the score?
They might be back.
Eighth-ranked North Carolina blew out Hofstra 107-63 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, marking first time theyve broken 90 points since late last December, and surpassing any of their point totals from last season. UNC (2-0) will play either Western Kentucky or Minnesota in the second round at 8:30 EST Friday night at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Its fun to score, Carolina coach Roy Williams said after watching his team make 56.3 percent of its shots. Guys enjoy playing that way, I enjoy coaching it, fans like to see it. Ive said it 100 million times: everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket.
One game, of course, does not prove that this team has totally recovered from an anemic 2009-10 season that saw it score in triple digits only once, and hit 90 points only thrice more than that.
But there were pretty good signs, such as making 12 3-pointers (three more than any time last season); and recording six players in double figures (including junior Justin Watts, who had a career-high 13 points, and sophomore Leslie McDonald, who tied a career-high with 16 points).
Twelve-for-17 from the 3- point line? Williams said. Last year, wed go two or three games and not make 12 3s. But again, it was outrageous how well we shot it early.
Indeed, Carolina took control from the get-go, opening with a 15-2 run that included two 3-pointers and a jumper from freshman Harrison Barnes, who was 4-for-4 from behind the arc, and scored all 19 of his points, by halftime. UNC was 8-for-9 from behind 3-point line by halftime, impressive considering it managed only eight 3s, period, in two games last season.
For one thing, I think were doing better at rotating the ball and getting shots, said McDonald, who was 5-for-9 with four 3-pointers for the game. We attack the middle, give it to the big men, they pass it out, and were getting shots. Thats why were getting more shots than last year.
Leading 58-33 at the break, UNC turned its focus to defense in the second half, holding Hofstra to 33.3 percent shooting after its 51.9 percent blast in the first half. McDonald, Strickland and Barnes even managed to slow down guard Charles Jenkins, who scored only 4 of his game-high 24 points after halftime.
Still, the focus for the Tar Heel fans who made the trip was the score. First, UNC smashed the four-year-old tournaments record for points in a game (it was previously 89). Then, with 4 minutes left, and the Tar Heels leading 98-58, a good-natured chant of We want biscuits! began a reminder of years past, when Bojangles doled out two sausage sandwiches for a buck with the Tar Heels scored 100 (and they used to have to give out a lot of biscuits).
I stood up, and I pointed over to them -- because youve got to give the fans what they want, point guard Larry Drew II said, smiling. If they want biscuits, who are we not to give the people biscuits?
A layup by McDonald sealed triple digits, and had the walk-ons checking in moments later.
Drew cautioned that the team cant be content with Thursdays output and thus, come out sluggish tonight, which happened all too often last season: We just have to keep building off of it.
And he, like the rest of the Tar Heels, seem confident that they can: I have a feeling were going to be seeing a lot more 100 games this year, the junior said.
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