For a second consecutive outing, point guard Raymond Felton shot the ball impressively well, racking up 13 points on just 5 field goal attempts to go along with his eight assists. Felton has now connected on 12 consecutive three point attempts dating back to the win over Virginia Tech, bringing him within range of the NCAA record of 15 consecutive makes.
"Raymond found out [last year] you couldn't will it in because he had bad technique," remarked a generally pleased Roy Williams. "In the offseason we talked about really working on his shot. His right elbow was really flying out, he was shooting the ball almost from the left side of his face instead of his right side. He's worked extremely hard to get his right elbow underneath and shot the ball from the right side . . . He's also making great decisions on when to take his shot and getting his feet set."
"His shooting is opening up a plethora of opportunities for us," added junior forward David Noel. "His knocking down the three point shot is opening up the offense a lot . . . That way a lot of guys can't help off of him. He's usually the guy feeding the post, and if we kick it out to him he'll knock down the three."
On the negative side, Felton also committed six turnovers in the opening stanza, however, including three in the opening three minutes. "I really just couldn't hold on to the ball tonight - no excuses," admitted Felton in the postgame locker.
Carolina's problems holding on the ball were trivial to those experienced by Cleveland State, however. The Vikings racked up 22 first half turnovers "over one a minute" to more than offset their impressive 62.5% first half shooting. The visitors reduced their second half turnovers to nine but also shot just 26.5% in the second stanza.
The Vikings were led by talented senior forward Omari Westley's 18 points. When these teams met in November 2003 in Cleveland, Westley had 20 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists as the Vikings nearly pulled out a monumental upset. Westley was again by far the best Cleveland State player tonight, but it was clear early on that this game was never going to be as competitive as last year's tilt.
"The turnovers were clearly the difference in the first half," said Cleveland State head coach Mike Garland. "We gave away half the points they scored on uncontested layups and dunks off of turnovers."
Indeed, Carolina recorded five dunks in the first half, but the most impressive play was a spectacular tap-in from quick-reacting Jawad Williams. Having already converted two alley-oop passes from Felton for dunks, Jawad managed to get a hand on a slightly too high pass from Felton as he flew by on the right side of the rim. As the ball caromed off the rim, Williams, now on the left side of the basket, quickly leaped to tap-in his own miss.
That play kicked off a 14-2 run to push the Tar Heel lead to 51-32. Key plays during that stretch included two steals from Rashad McCants, one of which led to a McCants finger roll layup in transition, the other to a driving layup from Scott off McCants' feed.
The most dramatic moment of the first half, however, came with 1:13 remaining, when Roy Williams decided to get an early start on his halftime team talk by sending in deep reserves Wes Miller, Reyshawn Terry, C.J. Hooker, Byron Sanders, and Charlie Everett. While the Blue Team outscored Cleveland State 1-0 over the final minute, Williams, still angry after watching his team concede a transition layup moments after a Felton three pointer, chewed out his starters on the sideline.
The second half proved to be more lopsided than the first, with the undoubted highlight being Sean May's remarkable one-handed, full extension dunk off a fast break lob pass from Felton to give Carolina an 82-50 lead. May. May was quick to rank the dunk as the best of his career in postgame comments. "I'm excited about that one, I feel like I got a little bit off the ground," said the Bloomington junior.
Unfortunately, most Carolina fans will have to wait until Roy Williams's weekly highlight show to see the dunk in its full glory, this was the only Tar Heel game of the 2004-05 season not to be televised.
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