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The Tar Heels built an early 27-14 lead and took a 53-42 advantage into halftime. They increased that margin to 21 points less than six minutes into the second half, but Long Island battled back and cut its deficit to 97-87 with 1:52 remaining.
Tyler Zeller (32) and John Henson (28) both set career scoring highs in leading North Carolina, while Harrison Barnes added 24 points and 16 rebounds. Julian Boyd paced Long Island with 18 points and 12 rebounds. C.J. Garner added 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting and Jamal Olasewere scored 15 points.
North Carolina shot 50.7 percent (34-of-67, 3-of-13 on 3-pointers) from the floor, while holding the Blackbirds to 36.5 percent shooting (31-of-85, 8-of-31 on 3-pointers). UNC outrebounded Long Island, 54-39, but lost the turnover battle (18-14).
INSIDE THE GAME
Running You to Death
When Long Island learned on Sunday night that it would have to play North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, senior guard David Hicks told reporters that his team would "just have to shock the world."
That level of confidence was expected after the Blackbirds closed the season on a 13-game winning streak, thanks in large part to one of the nation's most explosive offenses (82.0 ppg, 4th nationally). Long Island eclipsed the 80-point barrier 24 times this season, posting a 23-1 record in those contests.
That record now stands at 23-2. The Blackbirds got an early taste of Roy Williams' preferred style of play less than four minutes in. Hicks drained a 3-pointer at the 16:48 mark to slice UNC's lead to 12-5, but five seconds later, Zeller was laying it up on the other end after beating everyone down the court. That transition basket prompted Long Island head coach Jim Ferry to call a timeout.
But while North Carolina totaled 23 fast break points, Long Island fared even better with 30 point in transition.
"To go out there and score 100 points is very fun," UNC guard Kendall Marshall said. "But at the same time, it's not fun when they're running up your back and scoring on you, too, so we've definitely got to work on getting stops on the defensive end."
The Long and Short of It
Long Island pushes the tempo at ludicrous speed in order to play to its personnel package. When the two teams stepped out onto the floor for the opening tip, the height difference was both humorous and shocking. Forwards Olasewere and Julian Boyd – both standing 6-foot-7 – have done their damage attacking bigger defenders off the dribble, and that strategy held true on Friday.
While Henson and Zeller combined to score 27 first-half points, Olasewere and Boyd countered with 18. North Carolina's slender 28-27 points in the paint advantage during the opening 20 minutes suggested that Long Island was holding its own.
But while the Blackbirds were scrapping for every point they could find, Henson played above LIU's matchup zone in posting video game numbers through the first 23 minutes and 11 seconds of play with 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
After Henson picked up his third foul with 16:27 remaining, Zeller tagged in and scored 23 of his 25 second-half points, including 11 straight for UNC during one stretch.
"We always want to go inside, but ‘Z' was having a lot of success around the basket either scoring field goals or getting fouled and going to the free throw line," Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference.
The Blackbirds duo weren't as effective after halftime, missing 10 of their 16 field goal attempts. Olasewere fouled out on a interior reach-in with 3:46 remaining.
"Olasewere was killing us in the first half offensively, so I figured if we could get him in foul trouble by just keep going down low," Marshall said. "We happened to foul him out and I think that helped our offense a lot."
Concentration Lapses Continue
It appeared as though North Carolina was going to run the Blackbirds back to New York after darting out to a 12-2 lead less than three minutes into the game, but Long Island hung around and struck back with a 12-0 spurt to knot the score at 33 once the Tar Heels took their foot off the accelerator.
UNC answered with a 13-2 run to regain control and eventually built a 70-49 margin, but once again Long Island capitalized on Tar Heel miscues to inch to within 12 points with a 9-0 spurt.
During those two LIU runs, North Carolina committed four turnovers and missed all seven field goal attempts while allowing the Blackbirds to convert 81.8 percent of their field goal attempts (9-of-11) on eight assists.
"I think we get up by 10 or 15, we have a little lapse and let them back into it," Zeller said. "But, again, I go back to the NCAA Tournament. In the regular season you get up by 10, 15, they go away. In the NCAA Tournament, they're going to come back even harder."
Stat Sheet Notables:
* Friday's game marked the first time since the 1972 Final Four that two Tar Heels scored 25 or more points in a NCAA Tournament game (Bob McAdoo, 30; Dennis Wuycik, 27).
* Zeller's 19 free throw attempts ties the UNC record in a NCAA Tournament game (Tommy Kearns). His 14 made free throws ties the school record for second-most in a NCAA Tournament game.
* Marshall's 10 assists are the most by a Tar Heel in a NCAA Tournament game since Ed Cota had 10 against No. 1 seed Stanford in 2000.
* UNC's 10 blocks tie the record for second-most in school history in NCAA Tournament play.