North Carolina was supposed to play one final tune up game before the schedule got tough.
UNC will face Texas and No. 11 Michigan State or No. 17 UCLA in the Las Vegas Invitational later this week. Before then though, the Tar Heels played St. Francis, which had lost to UCLA 95-58 last week.
But this game did not feel like a tune up game. St. Francis started the second half on a 16-6 run, cutting the Tar Heels’ lead to six points and quieting UNC fans, who expected a blowout win at the Dean Smith Center.
Eventually, the Tar Heels got back on track and answered with a run of their own to win 101-76.
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The seventh-ranked Tar Heels improved to 5-0 for the third year in a row.
UNC freshman wing Nassir Little another positive performance with 19 points and 7 rebounds. Graduate wing Cam Johnson had 20 points and 6 rebounds.
UNC led by 16 points at halftime.
The reason the Tar Heels struggled was because they could not take care of the basketball. The Tar Heels committed nine turnovers in the first half, and the Red Flash scored 11 points off those turnovers. Through the first four minutes of the second half, UNC committed three more turnovers.
That is how St. Francis was able to cut UNC’s lead to six, 58-52, with 15:49 left .
But UNC answered and went on an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to extend its lead to 17 points. The run started with a 3-pointer from senior guard Kenny Williams. On the next play, freshman point guard Coby White forced a turnover, and passed it up to Johnson for a layup.
UNC pushed its lead back up to 27 points late in the second half.
Senior forward Luke Maye finished with a double-double. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
UNC’s game versus Texas is on Thursday.