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March 16, 2012
GREENSBORO -- Carolina's size and overall talent eventually subdued Vermont in a 77-58 UNC victory, but the Catamounts' coaching and discipline played a big role in the Tar Heels getting off to a slow start.
"I want to show them respect, and I don't want to take anything away from Vermont," said UNC's Harrison Barnes, who scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and made three steals.
"You have to give them credit," Barnes said. "They run their offense extremely well. They don't have a set play. A lot of it was them playing off each other. If we tried to use our athleticism to get in the passing lanes, they were going to back door; they're going to set good screens. You have to be able to react to that."
The Tar Heels reacted far better in the second half, especially James Michael McAdoo, who got his game jump started with an authoritative dunk on a follow shot.
"It felt good," McAdoo said. "So, yes, it relaxed me."
McAdoo went 6-of-14 from the field, scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds. He also had four steals. He did a lot of fill the gap left by John Henson's absence.
Henson, who injured his left wrist at the ACC Tournament, sat out this game. His status for Sunday's game with Creighton, which defeated Alabama 58-57 in the game prior to Carolina's on Friday, remains uncertain, according to Coach Roy Williams.
As well as McAdoo played, the player of the game had to be ACC player of the year Tyler Zeller, who finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a steal.
His size and tenacity wore Vermont physically and mentally.
"They have got a very tough front court, obviously," Vermont's Matt Glass said. "And just the way those guys attack the glass and how skilled they are offensively create matchup problems all over the place for anyone in the country.
"So we understood that coming into the game. It was a very real fight when it came down to it. But they're incredible players. They're pros, and they're very, very dangerous."
What hurts so many teams as well is the Tar Heels are long at all positions. Reggie Bullock is 6-foot-7 with a lengthy reach, so he can make it difficult for smaller shooting guards.
"We couldn't get any jump shots to go," Vermont coach John Becker said, "but I credit that to North Carolina. They're so big and long at every position that it's just hard to get any shots to go, but if we could have got some of them to go somehow, it would have been kind of miraculous shots because some of them would been so deep."
Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall did his usual job, passing 10 assists with three turnovers. He had a steal, too. He is now fourth on the NCAA career single-season assist list. He also set an ACC single-season record with 16 games of double figures in assists, breaking the previous mark of 15 by N.C. State's Chris Corchiani.
In all, the Tar Heels had 14 steals and forced 20 Vermont turnovers, while turning the ball over just 11 times themselves.
"Twenty turnovers is too many against a team like North Carolina," Becker said.
One of the better things Carolina did was hit its free throws. Zeller made 9-of-10 and the team made 18-of-24 (75 percent).
Marshall said even with Henson out, the Tar Heels were able to use their size, strength and speed to their advantage in the end, just as usual.
"That is what we do," Marshall said. "We work from the inside out. We want to get to the free-throw line. We want to get them in foul trouble.
"It hurts teams. If you try to run with us, you're going to get tired. That's what we do. And then if you try to bang with us, we don't know if you can do that either because of the size we have, the strength we have."
Nevertheless, the Tar Heels can do better, and they all expect it come Sunday.
"I do get frustrated when we make mistakes, but I don't know, it's the way I've always been," Williams said. "I'm glad to be one of the 32 [left playing]."