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Off the cuff: After all the off-the-court academic issues, it must be nice for the players to at least be talking about on-the-court basketball problems.

The Tar Heels did win by 16 points after getting up by as many as 19 points and after starting the game 11-0.

But this team is much better than it showed. It's not unusual for teams to start seasons slowly but when you see what Duke did earlier in the evening (113-44), it does make one wonder if the Heels can challenge the ACC-favored Blue Devils.

The answer is yes. In fact, the Tar Heels have more experienced talent as well as freshmen who will be really good by ACC play.

On this night, Coach Williams played with a lot of different lineups with every player getting in the game and 12 of them playing at least seven minutes.

Once the rotation is set and the Tar Heels figure how to help Marcus Paige get loose offensively, they will be fine.

Hopefully, the academic investigation won't bother them as much as the Leslie McDonald/PJ Hairston ordeal last year when the team didn't know whether or not the two would be eligible to play.

While it's something that needs to be corrected for sure, it's a shame that the academic investigation is going on at a time when the Tar Heels star player, Marcus Paige, and the Tar Heels best incoming freshman, Justin Jackson, are as academically gifted as any starters at a major university in the country.

Tar Heels 76, NC Central 60
Heels open season with a bland win

North Carolina jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the season opener and used balanced scoring in an overall uninspiring 76-60 over NC Central in Chapel Hill. (11/14)

“It’s a ‘W,’” UNC coach Roy Williams said blandly. “Not the prettiest thing in the world but Coach (Levelle) Moton’s bunch did some good things.”

NCCU went to the zone and bottled up UNC guard Marcus Paige, who was chosen by ACC media as the preseason player of the year, with a box in one. Paige finished with just eight points on a 2 for 8 performance from the field.

The Tar Heels, who led by as many as 14 points in the first half, had their lead cut to nine at 28-19 at the half.

Carolina started hot in the second half, extending the lead to 36-20 on a pair of old-fashioned three-point plays by freshman starter Justin Jackson and Isiah Hicks, along with a baseline jumper by JP Tokoto.

Tokoto, who will normally be a starter, did not start the game after he angered Coach Williams at practice earlier in the week. Still, he finished with 10 points in 24 minutes of play.

Brice Johnson, with 12, and Kennedy Meeks, with 10, were the only other Tar Heels in double figures despite playing only 18 and 17 minutes.

“We played a lot of different lineups,” said Williams, who played 10 men at least 12 minutes, three of whom were freshmen. “There are so many things we’ve got to improve on - we weren’t very sharp.”

He pointed to poor shooting, which includes only 18 percent from beyond the three-point line, and poor ball handling (14 turnovers).

Johnson said, “We have to go to practice to work on our mistakes – mainly fouling and turnovers.”

Jackson, the freshman who played 39 of the 40 minutes, said despite the problems, he had a “whole lot of fun” and was just glad the team came out with a win.

He said on Saturday the team will work on moving better on the court and setting screens for Paige before Sunday’s 6 p.m. game against Robert Morris in Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels, now 1-0, used their height for a 47-27 rebounding advantage and worked the lead up to 19 points late in the game before settling for the 16-point margin.


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