The 68-point margin of victory equals the third-largest in any game in UNC history and ties the largest in Smith Center history (118-50 win over The Citadel in ‘91). North Carolina led by as many as 71 points in the final minutes.
“Well, it was just a case of we were much more gifted than they were,” said head coach Roy Williams, who won for the 274th time in 300 career home games. “I did try to get our guys to focus coming back from a long trip and having such a fun time in Hawaii… We just made a bunch of shots and they missed a bunch of shots, and basically, that was the ball game.”
Even with All-American Tyler Hansbrough sitting this contest out, the Tar Heels (7-0) simply proved too strong for a UNC Asheville squad that fell to 3-3 on the season. The Bulldogs shot out to a 6-2 lead, before Williams subbed in Bobby Frasor and Will Graves for Ed Davis and Deon Thompson to showcase his smallest lineup of the season – Danny Green played the center spot, with Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington also on the floor.
The move worked, as North Carolina immediately employed a 13-1 run to regain the lead, and followed it up with an 18-2 spurt to blow the game wide open. And to make matters even worse for the Bulldogs, the Tar Heels overlapped the first and second halves with a 19-0 run that helped build a 53-19 lead at the break.
Lawson (22 points, 8 assists, 5 steals) and Thompson (17 pts, 9 rebounds) provided the fireworks in the early going, while Danny Green (18 pts, 6-of-8 on 3-pointers) continued his offensive onslaught from 3-point range in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, drilling his first six downtown bombs to set a new career high beyond the arc – five days after setting his previous mark of five against Oregon.
Green’s last make was from about six feet behind the top of the key, and his last miss was from similar range on the wing.
“I probably wouldn’t have shot it, and I didn’t want him to, but he had made five or six in a row, so basically it was fine with me,” Williams replied when asked about Green’s final miss.
North Carolina connected on 57.1 percent (44-of-77) of its field goal attempts, including draining 14 of its 27 3-pointers, while also outrebounding the Bulldogs, 52-39. UNC has connected on 39 shots from beyond the arc in its last four games, and the 14 3-pointers on Sunday are the most since a win over Virginia in January of ’05.
"[The 3-pointer] is a tough shot to make in college basketball, and we're knocking down like 50 percent of them,” said Lawson, who has posted 30 assists against just three turnovers in his last four games. “It feels great right now and it was exciting when Danny hit like six in a row. It feels good when our shots are going in like that."
For all of its offensive success, North Carolina’s defensive effort has been the overwhelming storyline during the first three weeks of the season, and the same held true on Sunday. UNC Asheville was held to 26.5 percent on 18-of-68 shooting, as the Tar Heels tallied 17 steals to force 25 turnovers.
“Defensively, they shoot 26 percent but they just missed some shots they would normally make,” Williams said. “Our defense was pretty good, but it wasn’t that good.”
Five Tar Heels broke the double-digit barrier in scoring, as Ellington (13 pts, 6 ast) and Davis (13 pts, 10 rebs) joined Lawson, Thompson and Green.
Hansbrough’s absence was purely of the precaution variety, with a trip to Detroit to battle No. 5 Michigan State on the docket for Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Williams indicated his star forward’s left ankle had stiffened up during the flight home from Hawaii, and that the coaching staff decided not to play him on Sunday.
“I have no idea if he will play Wednesday night,” Williams said. “It depends on what happens on Tuesday at practice, which is after I talk to [the media], and Wednesday at shoot around, which is a long time after I talk to [the media].”
Larry Drew’s driving layup with 4:57 left in regulation pushed the Tar Heels past the 100-point barrier, and Justin Watts and the walk-ons were quickly inserted for the stretch run.