North Carolina (13-2) opened the game with a 12-0 run and pushed that margin to 15-2, but the Hawks (2-12) responded with an 8-0 spurt. The Tar Heels used an 18-3 run to build a 42-19 lead and eventually took a 57-26 advantage into halftime.
Monmouth, coached by former Tar Heel King Rice, cut its deficit to 73-53 with 9:38 to play, but UNC pushed its lead to as high as 38 points in the closing minutes.
John Henson paced North Carolina with 21 points and Harrison Barnes added 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Tyler Zeller continued his strong rebounding efforts with 11 boards to go with eight points. P.J. Hairston (16) and Reggie Bullock (11) both reached double figures off the bench, while Kendall Marshall dished out 11 assists against three turnovers.
Andre Nicholas knocked down six of his eight 3-pointers to lead the Hawks with 22 points and Jesse Steele added 17 points and nine assists.
UNC shot 54.4 percent (37-of-68) from the field, including an 8-of-21 effort from long range. Monmouth connected on 37.3 percent (25-of-67) of its shots. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Hawks, 55-26.
INSIDE THE GAME
Hairston Heating Back Up
Through the first nine games of his college career, Hairston had displayed an ability to fire from deep with lethal accuracy. The Greensboro, N.C. product had connected on 46.2 percent (18-of-39) of his 3-pointers and ranked fifth on the team in scoring average (8.2 ppg).
Confidence has never been an issue for Hairston. His green light in high school was marked by the halfcourt line. But against Long Beach State on Dec. 10, Hairston’s aim deviated from its intended target and his confidence took an unexpected hit.”
“After the Long Beach State game, when I air balled three shots in a row, I just lost a lot of confidence in my shot,” Hairston said. “I think the next night in the gym I took about 500 shots.”
Prior to Sunday’s contest, Hairston had missed 14 of his 16 3-point attempts over his last five games. But he managed to stay in the rotation and earn plenty of minutes with an added emphasis on defense and rebounding (16 over the five games).
“I felt like I found other ways to help,” Hairston said.
Hairston entered the game against Monmouth with 11:47 to play in the first half and drained a 3-ball less than a minute later.
“When I hit that first one, I was like, ‘Okay, I feel like it’s going to be a good night,’” Hairston said.
The freshman guard finished with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including a 4-of-9 effort from long range.
“Last game P.J. couldn’t make a shot and couldn’t do anything right, so he made a bunch of them [on Sunday],” UNC head coach Roy Williams said.
UNC Sets Smith Center Record for Consecutive Wins
If there was any surprise on Sunday, it was that North Carolina had a Smith Center winning streak record in its target scope. The win over Monmouth marked the Tar Heels’ 26th-straight victory in the building’s 26-year history, breaking a 25-game win streak set from 1992-92.
Williams can lay claim to three of four longest winning steaks at the Smith Center.
UNC hasn’t lost to a nonconference opponent – 56 and counting – since dropping a ACC-Big Ten Challenge game to Illinois (68-64) on Nov. 29, 2005.
The Tar Heels could potentially tie the school record of 32 straight wins – set during the Tin Can era (’26-‘29) – against Virginia on Feb. 11 and then break the record on Feb. 18 against Clemson. UNC is 55-0 at home against the Tigers.
ACC Play Up Next
The Tar Heels will enjoy a five-day break before opening the ACC slate against Boston College in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The Eagles are 5-8 thus far against the nation’s 255th toughest schedule.
Miami will likely serve as UNC’s first legitimate conference opponent when the Hurricanes come to town on Jan. 10. The Hurricanes are undefeated since center Reggie Johnson returned from offseason knee surgery after missing the first nine games.
The Tar Heels will then hit the road for back-to-back games at Florida State and Virginia Tech.
“Now we’re getting ready to start a completely new season and our play is going to have to go up a level,” Williams said.
The ACC is 4-11 against top-25 level competition, according to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin. UNC and Duke are a combined 4-3 in that grouping, which highlights the ACC’s struggle to be anything other than a two-team league.
Random Fact of the Day
North Carolina boasts five NCAA national championships, and a member of every one of those teams was in attendance on Sunday –Lennie Rosenbluth (‘57); Williams (‘82); Derrick Phelps, Brian Reese and Eric Montross (93); Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams (‘05); and Bobby Frasor, Tyler Zeller and Justin Watts (09).
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