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Off the cuff: Carolina started out like it would score 100 points to start the 100th anniversary of UNC basketball. But the FIU game, or what ESPNU seemed to think was the Isiah Thomas Invitational, wasn't quite that gratifying. There were too many turnovers and too much out of sync play. But it's hard to get a rhythm when you play 12 guys that much. Still, that's exactly what Coach Williams should be doing right now - looking at what he's got and what combinations work best.

Interestingly, announcer Eric Montross said he thought the best defensive unit he saw on the floor included the freshmen Ware brothers who played just 10 minutes each. Get used to play-by-play announcer Woody Durham mixing those two up because they are identical and their numbers are 43 and 34.

The game started out as if the worries over outside shooting were unwarranted as Larry Drew II drained a three and Justin Watts drilled one and Marcus Ginyard knocked one home. But the Heels cooled and they were shooting too many threes for Coach Williams' taste in the first half. They ended up only four of 13 from behind the line.

When I met Ginyard during an interview a couple of years ago, he was talking about how he was working on his jumpshot. It did not have enough arch to it - fact is, it was flat, very flat. After a year off to injury, the redshirt senior has an entirely different shot. He really rainbows it and the ball hangs in the air for several seconds. He sank two of his four three-point attempts and finished five of seven from the floor.

Last year Tyler Zeller was the highly anticipated player to watch as the season started. He didn't disappoint in that first game a year ago as he scored 18 points to pace the Heels. Then fellow freshman Ed Davis hauled down 14 rebounds in that game. We didn't see that sort of performance from a freshman in this year's first game. Highly acclaimed John Henson hardly made any impact as he had four points and one rebound in 12 minutes of play and fellow freshman Dexter Strickland scored two points and turned the ball over five times in 11 minutes.

Carolina got its first double-digit lead of the night, 29-18, midway through the first half when Deon Thompson knocked the ball away to Ed Davis who passed it back to Thompson for a fastbreak dunk. The Heels worked the lead up to 16 at the half, 46-30, but the Golden Panthers, mostly due to some poor mop-up play by the UNC reserves, played Carolina even in the second half.

All in all, it was a good start for Carolina but as the rotations settle down a bit and the minutes increase for some and decrease for others, you'll see more consistent play from the Heels.

Heels 88, Golden Panthers 72
Experienced Heels lead way in opener

North Carolina opened its 100th season of collegiate basketball with an 88-72 victory over Florida International in a game that wasn’t even that close.

The Tar Heels, behind strong play from their returners, led by 20 or more almost the entire second half. Senior Deon Thompson led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds while sophomore Ed Davis chipped in 13 points and 11 rebounds.

It was a baseline jumper by Tyler Zeller, who spent most of last season injured, that gave the Heels their biggest margin of 26 points at 61-35 with 13:25 left in the game.

Another experienced player who was injured last season, Marcus Ginyard, who was the fourth Tar Heel in double figures with 12, provided the highlight of the evening when he scooped up a loose ball, slipped past a defender with a nifty move and dunked the ball solidly through the hoop for an 80-56 lead with less than five minutes to go.

The reserves, including three walk-ons, couldn’t hold the margin as they turned the ball over several times and were outscored 7-2 down the stretch to make the final score more respectable for FIU and its first-year coach Isiah Thomas.

Thomas said he appreciated UNC coach Roy Williams not pouring it on. “I’d like to thank Carolina and their fans for being first class and showing us how champions are,” he said. “One day we’d like to be champions.”

Coming off a championship season, the Tar Heels lost five key players and are searching for players who will get the majority of playing time. On this night, there were many different combinations of lineups which included several new players. Ten UNC players played 10 or more minutes and two others played more than eight minutes each.

Only the returners were singled out by Coach Williams for their good play. One of the biggest question marks coming into the season is Larry Drew II and how well he can replace Ty Lawson as the floor general. Drew drew praise with six assists and only two turnovers.

The Tar Heels as a team however turned the ball over an unacceptable 26 times for their biggest negative of the night. On a positive note, Carolina shot 56 percent from the floor, outrebounded the Golden Panthers by 15 and recorded eight blocks and 10 steals.

 Marvin Roberts led FIU with 18 points but the Golden Panthers shot just 37 percent.

Coach Williams said his team was active and tried hard but he added the Heels weren’t very sharp. “That’s about what you expect this time of year,” he said noting that this was a good test because FIU played a zone and spread the offense, two tactics he expects to deal with throughout the year because of the strength of Carolina’s inside players.

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