The Bucs scored the game’s first basket 94 seconds into the game. Their next points arrived on a field goal with 12:27 to play in the first half. It would then take another eight minutes for ETSU to score its next basket – this time a 3-pointer from the left corner.
The Bucs scored eight points over the next 2:34 and appeared to put themselves in solid position to avoid setting a new Smith Center record for fewest points scored in a half with 1:44 to play. N.C. State held the record with 13 first-half points on Jan. 12, 2008.
Guard Rashawn Rembert, however, air balled a 10-footer as the first half buzzer sounded and the Bucs claimed the new record with 12 points.
ETSU’s 12 points are the fewest in a half since Virginia scored 12 in the second half in Charlottesville on Feb. 11, 1998. The 12 points are the fewest allowed by UNC since Duke scored seven in the first half in 1979. The Blue Devils led 7-0 at the break in that track meet.
The Tar Heels outscored the Bucs, 34-2, over a 13-minute, 57-second segment beginning at the 17:15 mark. ETSU missed 17 of its 18 field goal attempts and committed eight turnovers during that run.
“Defensively, I thought that stretch in the first half we were really good,” head coach Roy Williams told reporters following the 78-55 victory.
The Bucs entered Saturday’s contest shooting 39.3 percent on the season and were playing without starting point guard Petey McClain due to an ankle injury. It also didn't help that ETSU's tallest starter stands 6-foot-7.
“They’re really good defensively,” ETSU head coach Murry Bartow said. “…. They’re really, really good. You combine that with our team, where we struggle offensively, and it’s not a good combination. We don’t have a point guard, so they started trapping us in the halfcourt. We panicked a lot and obviously they turned those into points at the other end.”
Those traps helped North Carolina force 22 turnovers for the game, including 13 in the first half.
“That’s one thing we worked on in practice this week to prepare for this team,” Bullock said of the traps. “I feel like our quickness on the perimeter as defensive players with me, Strickland and [Marcus] Paige, I believe we can get into a lot of teams’ heads throwing traps at them, just being in the right spot at the right time.”
Senior guard Dexter Strickland told reporters that Williams emphasized improved defensive play during his pregame speech.
“As a team, I think we did a horrible job against Butler and a horrible job against Indiana,” Strickland said. “It was important for us to come out tonight and improve on what we needed to work on and I think defense was the biggest thing. I think we did an alright job of that in the first half.”
The traps were essential in creating havoc for the Bucs, although Strickland stressed that it’s just one aspect along with help defense and on-the-ball defense.
ETSU’s 19.2 first-half field goal percentage is the lowest by an opponent in a half since N.C. Central shot 18.8 percent in the second half on Nov. 11, 2009.
The Bucs needed less than seven minutes into the second half to surpass their first half point total.
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