No. 3 North Carolina put on a clinic of stifling defense and dazzling aerial acrobatics Friday night to easily dismiss Winston-Salem State, 113-54, in exhibition basketball at the Smith Center.
Even the presence of Clarence “Big House” Gaines, who won 828 games in 47 years as head coach of the Rams, couldn't slow the Tar Heels in their inaugural outing of the 2003-04 season.
Rashad McCants hit the first shot of the game, a 3-pointer, and then Jackie Manuel scored on a five-footer off his own penetrating dribble. Seconds later, McCants got loose on a fast break and delivered with an emphatic two-handed slam.
“We looked pretty good overall,” McCants said. “From the start of the preseason, we’ve been doing a good job of bonding, and making sure that everything is in tact for the start of the season.”
At the 16:58 mark of the first half, fans got their first in-game look at heralded true freshman Marvin Williams. Nine seconds later he scored what is sure to be the first of many baskets in Carolina Blue, when he got free for a layup behind the Rams’ defense.
Moments later, after an amazing one-handed alley-oop slam by Jawad Williams, the Tar Heels led 11-3 and never looked back.
Up 46-15 with 4:12 left before intermission, the Tar Heels’ lineup consisted of Reyshawn Terry, Wes Miller, Damion Grant, Melvin Scott and Byron Sanders.
McCants picked up right where he left off at the end of last season, when he made a late push for conference player of the year honors. Along with a handful of poster-quality dunks, he finished with a co-team-high 21 points, including 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.
Jawad Williams also scored 21 points to lead six Tar Heels in double figures.
Raymond Felton had 11 assists against two turnovers. As a team, only 9 of UNC’s 43 field goals were unassisted.
“It starts with me,” Felton said. “I’ve got to make sure I’m the leader on the court and make sure everybody keeps up their defensive intensity. I’ve got to push the ball up the court, and make sure we do everything right.”
David Noel, who may never have to line up at center again with the Tar Heels' newfound depth inside, tallied 12 points and six rebounds, along with four steals, on a night playing time was disbursed liberally throughout the lineup.
In fact, all the scholarship players contributed on the scoreboard, including Grant, Terry and Miller.
Jackie Manuel appeared ready to make his senior year something special, showing the versatility that has earned him more and more playing time since his arrival at Carolina. He finished with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and committed zero turnovers.
Marvin Williams added 11 points, while Quentin Thomas garnered 16 minutes of playing time and only turned the ball over once.
“Quentin is a good passer,” Williams said. “He can be a better defender by being more patient himself. He did some nice things, and I think he learned some things tonight.”
Scott, the only Tar Heel to struggle offensively – just 1-of-6 from the field – was sharp passing the ball and on defense, tallying six assists and two steals.
“Let’s face it, this is not a fun experience,” WSSU coach Philip Stitt said. “The worst is over. We know we’re not going to play anyone in Division II this good.”
As would be expected with a 30-plus-point lead most of the night, Roy Williams experimented with a zone defense and different lineups.
“Exhibitions are like glorified practices, and that is what we tried to treat it like,” Roy Williams said. “We had some flurries defensively, but I wasn’t impressed with our impatience at times defensively. I like how active and unselfish we were. But I would like us to do a little bit better job in our set offense.”
While it’s nearly impossible to gauge much from such a game as this, nothing happened that should question the already sky-high expectations on this year’s UNC basketball outlook.
“We’ve been practicing for three weeks, so it was good just getting to run your plays with someone across from you,” said Sean May, who scored 10 points in just 12 minutes of action.
The Tar Heels, which opted not to stage a Blue-White intra-squad game for the first time since before the Frank McGuire era, will play one more practice game versus Mount Olive College next Friday night, before opening against Santa Clara on Nov. 19, in the Pete Newell Classic in Oakland, Calif.