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Off the cuff:

Iona came out with a little cockiness - throwing up deep threes, showing a lot of emotion, acting a bit like jerks. (That coach seems to have discipline problems with a couple of the players.)

But it was working for them as they couldn't seem to miss. Their first 15 points all came on threes. At one stretch, the Gaels hit eight of nine shots (four of which were threes) to work the lead up to 35-27.

UNC coach Roy Williams admitted that the players might have gotten a little tight as Iona worked up the lead. But he wanted them to stop worrying about the score and get lost in the game playing Carolina basketball.

They did that in the second half. Cam Johnson, who was cold in the first half, heated up. Luke Maye and Garrison Brooks stopped being so hesitant inside and went to the hoop.

The player who most took the ball to the rim, however, was Nassir Little. He came on in the first half and scored six points in less than five minutes to keep Carolina in the game. He finished with 19 points in just 17 minutes.

Tar Heels 88, Iona 73
Carolina's big second half buries Iona

North Carolina survived a barrage of three pointers in the first half by quickly erasing a halftime deficit and easing to a 88-73 victory over Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (3/22)

The Tar Heels, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, fell behind by eight points in the first half as Iona drained 10 of 21 threes.

"They controlled the clock and shot threes (in the first half)," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "And we didn't shoot very well."

All that changed in the second half as Coach Williams said his team turned it around by playing with more passion and getting lost in the game rather than worrying about the score.

"We guarded them a lot better," he said. "Didn't give them the wide open three."

Down 38-33 at the break, the Tar Heel players said Coach Williams was loud and clear that they were not playing Carolina basketball.

"Their hitting threes took us out of transition opportunities in the first half," UNC's Cam Johnson said. "We tied it up pretty quick in the second half and that gave us some momentum."

A set play to give Johnson a good look opened the second half as he popped in a three. Less than 30 seconds later, Luke Maye tied the game at 38-all.

After Maye looped a pass to Johnson to give the Heels a 42-41 lead with 17:58 to go, Carolina never trailed again.

A 16-4 run put the Heels up 58-45 and they keep the advantage in double figures the rest of the way, working the lead up to 74-54 after Kenny Williams got loose for a three.

Carolina was banking that Iona would cool down from beyond the arc and the Gaels did going just five of 20 in the second half.

After a woeful shooting first half, the Heels shot 64 percent from the floor and kept piling up the rebounds, finishing with a 52-26 advantage.

Five Tar Heels finished in double figures with Johnson leading the way with 21 points, 16 of which came in the second half.

Nassir Little gave Carolina a lift off the bench with 19 points in only 17 minutes. Maye finished with 16 points while Garrison Brooks and Coby White finished with 10 a piece.

The Tar Heels improve to 28-6 and advance to play Washington Sunday afternoon.

Box score

UNC's Nassir Little helped keep Carolina in the game by going hard to the hoop. (UNC Sports Information photo.)

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