North Carolina (2-0) entered Wednesday's county-border battle against N.C. Central (0-1) favored by 46 points, but for nearly eight minutes, the Eagles kept this contest competitive. Vincent Davis drilled a 3-pointer with 12:25 remaining in the opening half to cut UNC's lead to 19-17, but then the bottom fell out in LeVelle Moton's first game as his alma mater's head coach.
The Tar Heels scored 19 unanswered points and eventually closed the first half on a 32-3 run to take a 51-20 margin into the locker room.
Marcus Ginyard posted a team-high 17 points, while Deon Thompson added 13 points and seven rebounds. Ed Davis (six points, eight rebounds), Tyler Zeller (12 points, six rebounds) and Leslie McDonald (seven points, six rebounds) also delivered strong performances for North Carolina. C.J. Wilkerson led N.C. Central with 16 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
North Carolina knocked down 59.3 percent of their field goal attempts (35-of-59) over the undersized Eagles, and flipped the results on the defensive side of the floor, holding N.C. Central to 25.5 percent shooting (14-of-55). UNC outrebounded NCCU, 46-24.
The Tar Heels return to action against Valparaiso on Sunday at the Smith Center (4pm, FSS).
INSIDE THE GAME
Points From an Unexpected Source?
The mere mention of Marcus Ginyard's name conjures up a crisp definition of the typical utility player – someone who defends well on and off the ball, grabs loose balls and piles up garbage points by being in the right spot at the right time.
But if the fifth-year senior guard's season continues along the path that the first two games suggest, that preconceived image will be shattered by the time March Madness rolls around.
Ginyard tied his career-high against N.C. Central with 17 points after scoring 12 in the season-opening victory over Florida International on Monday. Through two games, the Alexandria, Va. product has connected on 12 of his 17 field goal attempts, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. Ginyard drained one second-half jumper from 20 feet, 8 inches –
a shot that entered the stat book as only two points since his big toe was touching the line.
A summer's focus on his jump shot is already yielding positive results.
"The biggest thing is just the confidence factor, there's no question about that," Ginyard told reporters during his postgame interview. "Just getting in and working over the summer and feeling more confident. You obviously have a much better chance of making it if you know you're going to make it."
For a team that is desperately looking for outside shooting – UNC has connected on 34.6 percent (9-of-26) of its 3-pointers against inferior opponents – Ginyard may develop into a legitimate scoring option for the Tar Heels in '09-'10.
"I think he will," UNC head coach Roy Williams said. "… I think Marcus has worked extremely hard on his shot. When he shoots it now, I think it's going in. I really do. I like it – it's got great spin. He gets it up in the air. It's not flat; it's going to land softly. So I do expect that he'll be more of a scorer but I want him to be Marcus Ginyard and then whatever he scores is fine."
The Dagger Run
When N.C. Central slashed North Carolina's deficit to 19-17 with a little over 12 minutes to play in the first half, there was a bounce in the Eagles' steps. After all, Moton's squad had connected on seven of its first 10 field goal attempts with a couple of offensive rebounds and a steal to its credit.
Those good feelings quickly vanished as the Tar Heels bowed up defensively, holding NCCU to 1-of-13 shooting during the remainder of the first half, sandwiching a 19-0 spurt and a 13-0 run around Dwayne Sim's 3-pointer at the 4:05 mark. North Carolina closed the first 20 minutes on a 32-3 eruption, holding the Eagles without a field goal for a stretch of eight minutes and 20 seconds.
North Carolina fans got an early – if incredibly brief – glimpse of Tyler Zeller's potential during his first-ever ball game in a Tar Heel uniform during the '08-'09 season-opening win over Penn. The Washington, Ind. native scored 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting against the Quakers, but a broken wrist would sideline Zeller for the majority of his freshman season, leaving many observers to wonder what might have been.
All the 7-footer did this offseason was pack on 40 pounds onto his frame, resulting in the humorous visual of the biggest player on the floor beating teammates and opponents down the floor this season – again and again.
"Coach always tells me I have a great ability to run so I need to use it," Zeller said. "It's easy for me - I just take off. I've got to play within my game and that's part of my game."
With North Carolina holding an early 28-17, Zeller found himself battling in the Eagles' paint battling for a defensive rebound. David Wear ultimately came up with the rebound, and the 7-footer quickly turned and floated up the court, his long legs rapidly eating up real estate. A well-timed pass resulted in an unguarded transition dunk for the tallest of North Carolina's tree stable.
"He's a fantastic runner," Williams said. "Dexter [Strickland] missed him one time. Larry [Drew] missed him one time. He's running and we've got to be able to get the ball to him in that scenario because it's going to stretch the defense."
Zeller's speed and agility led to a handful of transition points on Wednesday as the sophomore finished with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting to go along with six points and two assists. His first two buckets of the night came on put-backs under the rim.
Zeller's quickness has also been evident on the defensive side of the ball, drawing three charges in the season's first two games.
"'Z' is going to give us a great threat coming off the bench," Williams said. "Right now, that's the plan – to have him come off the bench, similar to what Danny Green did, and come in and give us some firepower offensively and let us run the floor and give us another big guy to rebound the ball."