Bahamas Breeze

NASSAU, Bahamas – North Carolina tipped off its 2010-11 basketball season earlier than normal on Wednesday, traveling to the tropics and defeating the Commonwealth Bank Giants, 130-87, in an exhibition contest.

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Junior Tyler Zeller led the Tar Heels with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while freshmen wings Harrison Barnes (8-of-15) and Reggie Bullock (9-of-13) each contributed 21 points. North Carolina connected on 58.3 percent of its field goal attempts (49-of-84) and held the Giants to 39.3 percent on 24-of-61 shooting.

Of course, victory was never in doubt ever since this excursion was planned back in June. The primary objective was a head start on the season, with some chemistry building thrown in for good measure.

"You just want them to get used to playing together, and to see how hard you have to play," UNC head coach Roy Williams said. "I wanted us to play as hard as we could defensively, and we didn't do a great job of that. I wanted us to share the basketball, and I thought we did a good job of that."

Zeller started slow on Wednesday, scoring seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in the first 20 minutes of action. But the first several offensive sets in the second half focused on feeding the seven-footer in the post, and he capitalized on the opportunity, posting 15 points and six rebounds in the third quarter alone.

"It's international [play], it's a little different, so you don't know what they're going to call," Zeller said. "I think I just got comfortable. I haven't played a game in a while too, so I think it was a lot more just getting comfortable and finding my niche."

Ghosts of the '09-'10 season haven't completely vanished from sight, as evidenced by Larry Drew's residence on the bench after turning his ankle in practice on Tuesday. Williams indicated after the game that his junior point guard would have to feel "great" on Thursday in order to play in the second exhibition game of the trip.

The Tar Heels showed flashes of improvement, moving the ball efficiently up the court to the tune of 19 assists while delivering plenty of effort on the defensive end, but there were also lapses in concentration that led to 12 turnovers against an overmatched squad.

"It was what I expected – it was up and down," Watts said. "It was a good chance for us to play together and fight through some mistakes that we made and work on some things that you can't work on in practice, [only] in game situations, so it was good."

On an island known for its laid-back style, the referees attempted to rewrite that history by calling an absurd number of fouls on Wednesday night – 54 to be exact. Seven different Tar Heels committed at least four fouls, resulting in Commonwealth shooting 53 free throws (37-of-53).

Freshman Kendall Marshall even pulled an impressive magic trick by fouling out on a play that occurred 20 feet from where he was standing.

That's not to say that the foul calls were completely one-sided. The Tar Heels connected on 24 of their 31 free throw attempts, drawing at least two fouls from seven different Giants.

Jeremy Hutchinson led the Giants with 29 points (7-of-16 shooting, 15-of-19 from the free throw line) and threw down a trio of slam dunks that nearly brought down the Sir Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.

North Carolina returns to the court on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against the Bahamas All-Stars.

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