During its season-opening victory Friday against Temple, North Carolina provided an indication of how good it can be – even without senior point guard Marcus Paige – when everything is going right – when shots are falling and when the defense is in the right position.
Then there was Sunday’s 92-65 victory against Fairfield. The lesson then: it won’t always be as easy as the Tar Heels made it look against Temple, and sometimes it could be ugly – even against the most overmatched of competition.
Fairfield (0-2) won seven games in each of its past two seasons. It lost its first game this season against Yale while being outrebounded by 23. And yet the top-ranked Tar Heels (2-0) led by just eight points with less than 14 minutes to play Sunday before pulling away during the final 10 minutes.
UNC led 54-46 with less than 14 minutes to play, and restless murmurs circulated through the Smith Center. During the next five minutes the Tar Heels went on a 15-7 run to build a 16-point lead. Nate Britt made a pair of 3-pointers during the run. A layup by Justin Jackson – after a Kennedy Meeks steal – prompted a Fairfield timeout as UNC’s lead climbed to 16 with about 8 1/2 minutes to play.
Three who mattered
Nate Britt: Off to a strong start to his junior season, Britt tied his career high with 17 points. He also had five assists.
Joel Berry: Making his second start at point guard in place of an injured Paige, Berry finished with 15 points and four assists.
Brice Johnson: Johnson started slowly for the second consecutive game but finished with a double-double – 16 points and 11 rebounds – and played through foul trouble in the second half.
Three key numbers
22 Points off of turnovers for the Tar Heels, who outscored Fairfield 22-0 in that category.
56.3 UNC’s free-throw percentage, going 18-for-32 from the line. That’s cause for concern.
40 Points in the paint for UNC, which outscored Fairfield 40-16 there.