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Off the cuff: Carolina started out aggressively in this win over N.C. State. We may never know exactly what precipitated that but UNC coach Roy Williams said something, challenged the players, as the Heels played their first game without Dexter Strickland, who has been lost for the season.

In a post-game interview, Tyler Zeller alluded to something that Coach Williams did or said but it sounded like a challenge of some sort. I know there has been a lot of excitement at State over the Wolfpack's start under new coach Mark Gottfried and I wonder if it has something to do with that.

"They are just 30 minutes down the road so we'd have to hear about it if we lose this one," Zeller said.

State's shooting was cold but it looked like the Tar Heels were ready to play. A lot of times teams play well just after losing a key player but eventually it will show.

Reggie Bullock's defense was more than acceptable in Strickland's place, as were his 11 points. Stilman White did fine spelling Kendall Marshall but he only played two more minutes than he normally does. He did get more important minutes I suppose.

Conventional wisdom is that the Tar Heels will miss Strickland's defense but I think it's the speed on the fast break that's going to hurt more. Marshall's passing is tremendous on the fast break but Strickland's run outs on the fast break will be missed.

Tar Heels 74, N.C. State 55
ZZZ leads Heels to a snoozer over State

N.C. State led North Carolina 5-2 in the first minute and then Tyler Zeller went to work. After two quick Zeller buckets, UNC took the lead and never trailed again as the Tar Heels won for the 11th time in a row over the Wolfpack, 74-55. (1/26) Click for a photo gallery.

Zeller already had his ninth double-double in the last 10 games by halftime with 13 points and 10 rebounds as the Heels were in control at 37-23 - despite an 85-footer at the buzzer by State's Brown.

Zeller finished the game with 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds in only 27 minutes of play. A couple of highlight plays in the first half involved Zeller as the Heels were pulling away.

First, Stilman White, getting time due to the season-ending injury to Dexter Strickland, played give-and-go with Zeller, who flew in for a bucket and drew a foul for a three-point play that gave the Heels a 31-20 lead. A little more than a minute later, Zeller stole the ball in the open court and went in for a power dunk to give UNC its biggest lead of the game at that time at 35-20.

The Tar Heels went on a 26-6 run early in the second half to get out to their largest lead of 31 points at 63-32. A couple of threes by Reggie Bullock, who started in place of Strickland, and passing by Kendall Marshall highlighted the first part of the run. A three by Marshall and a three by White set the Smith Center hopping to end the run with 12 minutes left.

The Wolfpack, which shot poorly most of the game, then had a stretch where they flowed offensively (to go along with four banked-in threes on the night) and Carolina, playing subs, failed to score in the last five minutes of the game to make the final 19-point difference.

The Tar Heels outscored the Wolfpack in the paint 42-20 and scored 14 points off turnovers. John Henson had six blocks for Carolina, several of which contributed to the Tar Heels 12 fastbreak points.

UNC coach Roy Williams said that Zeller's play, along with Henson's blocks and the run game got the Heels going in the first half but that State helped them out by missing shots they normally would make.

Besides Zeller, Bullock and Harrison Barnes were the only other Tar Heels in double figures with 11 and 15 respectively. In what was probably the play of the game, with five minutes gone, Barnes took a rebound off the backboard behind his head and jammed in it all in one move.

State, 15-6 and 4-2 in the ACC, was led by Scott Wood with 11 points.

Tar Heels, 17-3 and 4-1 in the league, host Georgia Tech Sunday evening. Its the second of three games in six days for the Heels.


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