That was then last year, when the Tar Heels were rebuilding following an unprecedented loss of personnel the previous season. This is now, when they appeared unstoppable with two teams seemingly capable of making the NCAA Tournament sharing the same bench.
There were miscues (21 turnovers) and defensive lapses (a 15-8 run by Gardner-Webb to start the second half); and it's obvious UNC (3-0) has not come close to realizing its full potential. Still, each game is a talent showcase of current and future stars adding to their extensive highlight reel night-in and night-out.
With seemingly innumerable options, it was Brandan Wright who led all scorers with 21 points and a co-game-high nine rebounds this time, Wayne Ellington added 19 and Tyler Hansbrough contributed 18. Reyshawn Terry scored all nine of his points in the first half and also pulled down nine boards.
After three games, Ellington is third on the team in scoring, averaging 14.0 points per game.
“Wayne has the ability to score the ball, and I think that’s his greatest trait,” Williams said. “He’s also working extremely hard on the defensive end of the floor.”
Carolina shot 53 percent from the floor while holding Gardner Webb (0-3) to 28.4 percent, and the Tar Heels grabbed 38 more rebounds.
By midway through the first 20 minutes, the Tar Heels led 29-9 following a three-pointer by Ty Lawson.
“We got off to a very good start with our intensity in the first half,” Roy Williams said. “Our defensive play and our play on the backboards was the biggest keys to the game.”
Carolina dominated the first 20 minutes by shooting 58.3 percent, including 4-for-9 from three-point range to take a 57-19 halftime lead.
After starting the second half slowly, Lawson found Wright for a crowd-pleasing alley-oop slam that put the Tar Heels back up by 40 with a little over 12 minutes remaining. A circus layup by Ellington with 6:11 to play gave Carolina its largest lead to that point at 91-47. And a pair of Alex Stepheson free throws with about a minute to play put the Tar Heels over the century mark for the second time this season.
UNC took a game off from its impending requirement in the NIT Season Tip-Off which reconvenes this week in New York. The Tar Heels will face Gonzaga (4-0) Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, and then will face either Butler or No. 24 Tennessee on Friday.
* Sophomore Danny Green did not dress for the game. He's still recovering from a left ankle sprain suffered last Wednesday against Winthrop. "He shot the ball and did dummy offense yesterday morning," Williams said. "That’s all he did. He couldn’t plant it and cross over or anything like that when he was shooting. ... I really believe that he will be able to go by Wednesday and I’m hoping he can practice tomorrow."