No. 20 Tar Heels cruise past East Tennessee State
Roy Williams tried another new lineup and got a 30-point halftime lead.
But East Tennessee State was woefully outmanned and No. 20 North Carolina’s 78-55 victory Saturday night was healthy but not moving the 10th-year head coach to settle on a starting unit.
North Carolina’s latest edition had Iowan freshman guard Marcus Paige returning after missing a game, Floridian freshman Joel James for the second consecutive game and season-long regulars Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo.
“It’s whatever coach wants,” Bullock said. “Joel played well. He’s a big body. What he needs to realize is when he gets it down low, he doesn’t realize how strong he is. He needs to turn and shoot.
“Whoever is starting has to come in and play well.”
Fistfuls of tickets were available outside and more than 4,000 empty blue seats inside. Even still, the Smith Center crowd of 17,307 enjoyed the aerobatics of dunks, simulated volleyball tips on rebounds and a defense that often didn’t let the Buccaneers inside the 3-point arc.
East Tennessee State (2-5), which plays Ole Miss and Arizona in two of its next three games, had just seven scholarship players. The Buccaneers’ top two returning guards were kicked off the team earlier this fall for violation of team rules and the team brought eight in jerseys to play and 12 in suits to coach and support.
The Tar Heels (7-2) held East Tennessee State to 19.2 percent shooting in the first half. The Bucs led 2-0 two minutes in, and then went six minutes before their next points and eight more, already trailing by 30, before their third field goal.
“He’s got his point guard out, and two guys they suspended, and another guy that is out for a semester,” Williams said. “It was tough for them in the first half.
“We couldn’t maintain that same intensity in the second half.”
Leslie McDonald led 11 Tar Heels who scored with 14 points. Brice Johnson added 12 and Bullock 10. North Carolina had 30 assists on 31 field goals, with Strickland and Paige dishing seven each.
“The only one that wasn’t, Leslie got his own rebound and put it back in,” Williams said. “It shows when we move the ball we’re very successful.”
Due to a lackluster second half, former junior varsity players Wade Moody, Frank Tanner, James Manor and Denzel Robinson didn’t crash the court until just over two minutes were left and the Tar Heels up 76-42.
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