North Carolina’s exhibition basketball game against UNC Pembroke on Friday went like these things often go – one team imposing its will, treating the exercise like a glorified scrimmage and the other, it seemed, happy to be along for the ride.
And so the real takeaways were few from the Tar Heels’ 124-63 victory. They won by a large margin without any resistance whatsoever. That’s how it was supposed to be. UNC coach Roy Williams experimented with his lineup, using numerous combinations. That’s how it was supposed to be, too.
Nonetheless, it might be difficult for the Tar Heels to replicate in an otherwise empty gym what they did on Friday night at the Smith Center. They scored their 100th point with about seven minutes to play on Joel Berry’s 3-pointer and that gave them a 101-52 lead, and the onslaught continued.
The final numbers: UNC shot 65.7 percent. Six scorers, led by Joel Berry (20 points), finished in double figures. Freshmen Tony Bradley, Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods combined for 24 points and 14 rebounds, and they looked comfortable doing so.
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The highlight for UNC Pembroke, an NCAA Division II school in the southeastern part of the state, came 26 seconds into the game. That’s when Brandon Watts gave the Braves a 2-0 lead. It was shortlived.
For UNC, there weren’t many nits to pick. Williams undoubtedly will find some before his team begins the regular season a week from Friday at Tulane. The Tar Heels, who reached the NCAA tournament championship game last April, need to fill the void left by the injured Theo Pinson.
Nate Britt, the senior guard, started in Pinson’s place on Friday. UNC also must continue to adjust amid the departures of Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, the two players who formed the emotional and spiritual core of that Final Four team a year ago.
One of the loudest cheers of the night came when Johnson and Paige appeared one after another on the video boards high in the corners of the Smith Center. They said their names and then, “I’m a Tar Heel,” in the tradition of the popular montage. Down on the court below, the margin kept growing wider.