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North Carolina wins season home opener against Stanford behind big first half

Roy Williams following win over Stanford: ‘We’ve got to get better defensively’

Williams addresses the media following the Tar Heels' season home opener against Stanford
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Williams addresses the media following the Tar Heels' season home opener against Stanford

It didn’t take long for North Carolina to establish that it was a better team than Stanford Monday night.

The Tar Heels raced to a 26-point first-half lead, played sloppy in second half, and still beat the Cardinal 90-72 in their home opener at the Dean Smith Center.

The seventh-ranked Tar Heels continue to roll after picking up their third consecutive win to open the season. UNC (3-0) first beat Wofford 78-67 last Tuesday, and Elon 116-67 on Friday.

But UNC coach Roy Williams was not pleased with how his team played in the second half.

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North Carolina coach Roy Williams reacts to a turnover during the first half against Stanford on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

"We didn’t guard them, they switched every screen and acted like we had never seen that before in our lives,” Williams said. “Best thing that ever happened to my team is that we don’t have practice tomorrow.”

In particular, Williams was upset by the number of free throws Stanford took. The Cardinal shot 15 free throws in the second half.

Still, the Cardinal never got closer than 15 points.

Williams is now 4-1 against his former player and assistant coach, Jerod Haase, now Stanford’s coach. Haase, who played for Williams at Kansas, served as an assistant coach at UNC from 2003 to 2012.

Graduate wing Cam Johnson continued his hot shooting, finishing with 17 points and 7 rebounds. After shooting 3-for-4 from behind the 3-point line, Johnson is now 10-for-14 through three games, which is 71 percent.

UNCSTANFORD-SP-111218-RTW24.JPG
North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson (13) drives to the basket against Stanford’s Jaiden Delaire (11) during the second half on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC. Johnson lead North Carolina with 17 points in the Tar Heels’ 90-72 victory. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

"Just reps,” Johnson said of what’s been key for him. “I’ve been putting some time into shooting, working on my shoulder, making sure that’s feeling alright and getting my feet under me when I shoot. It’s an upswing for me right now. I’m just going to try to keep round that way.”

Maye was 5-for-9 and had 16 points. He headed to the locker room with trainers in the first half, but he returned later.

Senior guard Kenny Williams, who was 0-for-10 through the first two games of the season, broke through Monday night. He had 12 points, was 4-for-6 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3. It wasn’t the first time Williams performed well against Stanford. Williams had a career-high 20 points in UNC’s 96-72 win last season.

“I knew I’d hit some shots this game,” Williams said. “I wasn’t worried about it at all. But I guess they just always get the short end of the sticks when it comes to me making shots.”

Williams’ first basket was a layup as he drove past the Stanford defender.

The Tar Heels dominated the first half. They led the Cardinal (2-1) in almost every major statistical category, but it was the Tar Heels’ first-half defense that gave them a spark.

The Tar Heels forced eight first-half turnovers and turned them into 14 points. They finished with 22 points off turnovers.

The biggest highlight was an alley-oop pass from Seventh Woods to Nassir Little with about three minutes left in the first half. Little faked as if he were running to the 3-point line, then ran to the basket, jumped in the air, and Woods found him for the slam.

After the alley-oop, Woods, who had four assists, jumped and skipped.

Maye added a 3-pointer before the halftime buzzer to make the score 52-26.

The biggest statistical difference in Monday’s game was rebounds. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Cardinal 45-35.

The Tar Heels got sloppy, turning the ball over seven times in the second half, and allowed the Cardinal to get the score within 15 points.

But that was all. The Tar Heels were just a better team.

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Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander
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