North Carolina (1-0) found itself in a dogfight against the reigning Atlantic Sun regular season champions in the first half, falling behind 10-4 early and then again 29-28 in the later stages. But the Tar Heels eventually took control with a 22-7 run that overlapped halftime to build a 50-36 lead.
Lipscomb (0-1) whittled that deficit down to three points at 59-56 nine minutes later after a pair of Brandon Brown free throws. Leslie McDonald promptly responded with a jumper on UNC’s ensuing possession and the Bisons were unable to get within five points again.
Tyler Zeller led North Carolina with 15 points and also grabbed seven rebounds, while John Henson posted 10 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks. Freshman Harrison Barnes scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Josh Slater paced the Bisons with 21 points and nine rebounds, and Atlantic Sun preseason player of the year Adnan Hodzic added 14 points and eight rebounds.
North Carolina shot 47.6 percent (30-of-63) from the floor, while holding Lipscomb to 34.9 percent shooting (22-of-63, 9-of-29 on 3-pointers). The Tar Heels forced 17 turnovers despite committing 14 of their own.
UNC broke 80 in a regular season game for the first time since an 87-70 win over Albany on Dec. 30, 2009.
INSIDE THE GAME
An Athlete of Lengthy Proportions
John Henson’s first game as a Tar Heel left some observers questioning whether or not he deserved the lofty recruiting ranking that followed him to Chapel Hill, scoring just four points and grabbing one rebound in 12 minutes against Florida International 362 days ago.
That talent and potential shined through during his second season opener at North Carolina, however, as the sophomore forward found himself within swatting distance of a triple-double when the game clock expired – 10 points, a career-high 17 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks.
Henson told reporters after the game that being active and having a lot of energy was the key to his play. His 7-foot-4 wingspan frustrated Lipscomb and helped to force the Bisons to rely on perimeter shooting (9-of-29) throughout the game.
“As a team, I think we have a lot of scorers, a lot of people that can put the ball in the basket and we need someone that can get the rebounds and stuff like that,” Henson said. “So in my head, that’s where I’m trying to contribute the most, just rebounding and blocks on the defensive end.”
Freshmen Fast Out of the Gate
It didn’t take freshman phenom Harrison Barnes very long to score his first official points as a Tar Heel – 11 seconds, to be exact. On UNC’s first possession, Dexter Strickland found his teammate for a 12-foot fadeaway from the left side of the floor.
But after another bucket four minutes later, Barnes took a seat and watched as fellow frosh Reggie Bullock reeled off eight quick points with a pair of 3-pointers. On the next possession down, Kendall Marshall faked a pass to give himself a wide-open look from the top of the key for his first 3-pointer as a Tar Heel.
In all, the freshman trio scored 17 of North Carolina’s first 24 points of the season. Bullock (12 points on 5-of-11 shooting, four rebounds) and Marshall (10 points, three assists, two steals) joined Barnes in double figures as the rookies delivered a strong showing in their debut.
“I was excited to be out there, I’m sure along with Reggie and Harrison, it was our first experience playing in the Dean Dome,” Marshall said. “We look forward to many more.”
Roy Williams has never been afraid to rotate players in and out of the lineup at various positions, often pointing to the fact that in his system the two and three spots are interchangeable, as are the four and five spots. On Friday, the eighth-year UNC head coach was possibly as rigid in his substitution pattern as he has ever been since his return to Chapel Hill.
Ten different players were almost perfectly divided into their white and blue practice squads. Larry Drew played 29 minutes at the point and Kendall Marshall took the other 11. Dexter Strickland logged 23 minutes at the two-guard and Leslie McDonald played the other 17. Reggie Bullock served as Harrison Barnes’s backup at the three, Justin Watts subbed in for John Henson at the four and Justin Knox alternated with Tyler Zeller at the five.
“Everyday, the blue team just goes out and competes to make the white team better,” Bullock said. “… We’re going out and competing every day in practice, just trying to make a run at every game and trying to prepare each other and make all of our teammates better.”
The only discrepancies in the strict substitution patterns took place when Watts subbed in for Zeller instead of Henson as UNC went with a slightly smaller lineup in the final 2:19 of the first half and when Bullock subbed in for Henson in the final 100 seconds of play for free throw shooting purposes.
An Extra Bottle of Windex Needed
With the Tar Heels holding a 22-18 lead with nine minutes remaining in the opening half, Henson drew cheers by swatting 6-foot-3 Brandon Barnes under the basket, but how the Bisons guard got the ball in the paint may have gone unnoticed by the Smith Center crowd. Barnes didn’t get into the lane with a penetrating drive or a savvy pass, but rather by grabbing an offensive rebound due to Henson failing to box him out.
North Carolina had a 12-inch height advantage spread across its 3-4-5 positions against Lipscomb, yet the Bisons keep the rebounding margin close – 48-39 – thanks to 14 offensive rebounds.
Lipscomb’s 20 missed 3-pointers undoubtedly created long rebounds for its guards to track down, but UNC failed to put a body on potential rebounders on several occasions.