North Carolina (4-0) wasted little time in putting points on the board, scoring 19 points before the first television timeout. The Tar Heels needed just seven minutes and 28 seconds to build a double-digit lead at 27-15. The Tigers (2-3) cut their deficit to 37-33 with a 16-4 spurt, but UNC responded with a 16-6 run and took a 55-42 lead into halftime.
After converting just five 3-point attempts on Sunday against Mississippi Valley State, North Carolina knocked down 7-of-10 treys in the first half. TSU countered with seven 3-pointers, albeit on 18 attempts.
The Tar Heels opened the second half with a 12-3 run to build an insurmountable cushion. UNC increased its lead to 92-56 with 5:40 remaining.
UNC scored 41 field goals on 32 assists, marking the most assists during the Roy Williams era. <> John Henson continued his strong play with 16 points, 10 rebounds, a career-high six assists and four blocks. Harrison Barnes (16) and Tyler Zeller (12) also scored in double figures for UNC. Marshall contributed five points and four rebounds to go along with his 15 assists.
Kellen Thornton led TSU with 15 points and Kenny Moore added 14.
North Carolina shot a season-high 62.1 percent (41-of-66) from the floor, including a 61.1 percent mark (11-of-18) from 3-point territory. TSU connected on 39.4 percent of its field goal attempts, including a 35.5 percent effort (11-of-31) from long range.
INSIDE THE GAME
In Reggie Bullock's first five halves of the season, he connected on 2-of-7 3-pointers. In his last three halves, the Kinston, N.C. sophomore has knocked down 8-of-12 treys and has provided needed offensive production on the perimeter.
But while he only warmed up in the second half against Mississippi Valley State on Sunday, Bullock exploded against TSU for an 8-of-10 (6-of-7 3-pointers) shooting display, including four treys in the first half to help the Tar Heels score their most first-half points of the season.
"I just had to come out and play my game," Bullock said. "I'm a shooter, so I know I just [have] to catch and shoot and not think about it. The first couple of games I was thinking about my shot too much. I know coming off the bench I've just got to bring something to add to this team. My shooting ability will open up the floor for John and ‘Z' inside the paint, so I just had to bring that tonight."
Williams told his team on Monday that he was recruiting a player that could shoot from the perimeter and would available to enroll in January, but that humor-veiled threat spoke to the problems that UNC was having from long range (11-of-38) in its first three games.
And now that Bullock has done it once, his coach expects him to do it again.
"I'm going to challenge him now," Williams said. "He had four threes against Boston College and then the next game wasn't as good. You can't be up and down; you've got to be consistent with it."
Marshall Dishing and Dealing
When Williams subbed out for Marshall with 4:15 left to play, the sophomore point guard told his coach that he only needed three more assists to tie Raymond Felton's school record of 18 assists.
Williams, of course, responded in the only way he knows how – with heavy sarcasm.
"I went down to him and I said, ‘So I take you out after 36 minutes, if you were going to average one a minute, then you'd already have frickin' 36, so we wouldn't be having this conversation," Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference.
Marshall, however, doesn't keep track of his assists. One of his teammates does that for him.
"John told me at halftime," Marshall said. "I usually don't keep up. It was John – he's usually the one that keeps me updated with how many assists I've got. He was like, ‘Kendall, five more assists and you've got 15.' And he was like, ‘I need one more rebound for that double-double.' We talked to each other and once we saw we had the game in hand, then little stuff like that we like to have fun with."
It's important to note that Henson isn't a stat-checker for everyone – just for Marshall.
"I know how much he really wants to help with assists and how much that record means to him," Henson said. "It's something that he can achieve. I just want to see him achieve that and say I was his teammate when I did that as well."
Marshall is the only Tar Heel in history to have 15 or more assists in more than one game – he's done it three times – and he's accomplished that feat in just 24 starts. After posting five assists and five turnovers in the season opener against Michigan State, Marshall has an assist-error ratio of 5.4-to-1 (38-7) in his last three outings.
As for Felton's record, Marshall hopes to break it one day, but there are more important things that lie ahead.
"If I do, it's great," Marshall said. "If not… It's not the first goal on my list. I want to win the national championship."
This North Carolina team made a statement defensively in its first three games of the season, holding its opponents to 36.0 percent shooting.
The Tigers found success early, however, in driving to the basket and dishing out to open teammates on the perimeter. The result was a 44.7 percent first-half shooting effort, including a 7-of-18 mark from long range.
Williams had strong words for his team in the locker room.
"I chewed their rear ends out because I didn't think we were very good defensively guarding the ball in the first half," Williams said. "It's pretty simple. If you're not going to deny the pass, that means that you're off the guy. So if you're off the guy, he shouldn't drive you straight to the dadgum basket."
UNC picked up its defensive play in the second half, limiting TSU to 33.3 percent on 11-of-33 shooting.
"It just all came down to guarding the ball," Marshall said. "He said that an assistant coach kept coming to him and said we were over-helping [and] we weren't boxing out. By the end of the day, we just had to guard the ball."
Follow IC on Twitter @InsideCarolina.