North Carolina (7-2) wasted little time in building a double-digit lead less than six minutes into the game at 17-6. The Tar Heels closed the half on a 19-5 run that was capped off by a Kendall Marshall 3-pointer at the buzzer to give UNC a 52-22 margin.
UNC added 10 unanswered points to its lead to open the second half and eventually built an 89-38 advantage with 4:47 remaining.
Harrison Barnes led UNC with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Tyler Zeller (12 points, 10 rebounds) and John Henson (13 pts, 12 rebs) notched double-doubles, while Reggie Bullock (15) and James Michael McAdoo (10) also reached double figures.
Denver Holmes was the lone Purple Ace to reach double digits with 14 points.
UNC shot 48.5 percent (32-of-66; 7-of-19 on 3-pointers) and held Evansville (3-4) to 25.8 percent shooting (17-of-66; 6-of-27 on 3-pointers). North Carolina outrebounded its opponent, 62-30.
INSIDE THE GAME
Entering Tuesday’s contest, Evansville ranked ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference in both field goal percentage defense (45.6) and 3-point field goal percentage (39.8). Those standings will assuredly drop after North Carolina combined interior offensive efficiency with a strong transition game to connect on 60 percent (18-of-30) of its field goal attempts in this first half.
The Tar Heels scored those 18 field goals on 11 assists with five different players dishing. All five of UNC’s starters scored at least two buckets, while Barnes took the most shots (6).
Against less talented opponents, North Carolina’s coaching staff looks for effort on defense. On the other side of the ball, UNC works on when have a clear size advantage.
“If you’re running a set, make sure you’re running the set properly,” said Zeller, who fell one point short of reaching the 1,000-point career mark. “And if you’re just running motion offense, it’s something that you make sure you move the ball and make sure you don’t go 1-on-1, because even a team like that can guard you 1-on-1. It’s just trying to do as much as possible and getting the ball in the right places.”
Tuesday’s first half marked the fourth time this season that UNC has shot 60 percent or better from the floor in a half.
Colt Ryan arrived in Chapel Hill as Evansville’s go-to scorer, averaging 19.7 points per game on 41.3 percent shooting (40.7 percent on 3-pointers). The junior guard roasted TCU in his last game out for 31 points on 7-of-17 shooting and 14-of-16 free throws.
But Ryan drew Dexter Strickland as his defender and was unable to find much room to work. In the few instances when he found an opening, UNC’s help defense prevented him from capitalizing.
Ryan finished with a season-low nine points on 1-of-11 shooting (1-of-5 on 3-pointers) and committed three turnovers.
“I thought Dexter was really good defensively and he got a great deal of help from the big guys giving him space to get through,” Williams said. “Two times he came wide open and Kendall retreated in the direction of the pass and helped Dexter, too… I thought that Dexter was attentive.”
Blue Team Logging Critical Minutes
North Carolina’s ability to quickly dismiss any hopes of a Purple Ace upset bid allowed UNC’s bench to receive some needed quality time on the court. With UNC leading 30-14 with 7:17 remaining in the first half, Williams began subbing in his blue squad.
Bullock was first off the bench, followed by Desmond Hubert and James Michael McAdoo, and then finally P.J. Hairston and Stilman White. That quartet played together for roughly 90 seconds before halftime.
“One of the goals was to get some of those guys some more minutes,” Williams said.
That group, along with the walk-on crew, played even more minutes in the second half. As a result, Kendall Marshall (25 minutes) was the only Tar Heel to log more than 22 minutes.
Freshman forward Desmond Hubert saw 18 minutes of playing time in UNC’s first eight games and nearly matched that total on Tuesday.
“Desmond has a really active body,” Williams said. “He played 13 minutes and had eight rebounds. He can do those kinds of things. We’ve got to work with him on the offensive end and give him a better skill set there, but he has the chance to be a player that can help us.”