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November 12, 2010

Henson leads Tar Heels to season-opening win against Lipscomb

CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina forward John Henson said he was so anxious thinking about the Tar Heels' season opener that he couldn't sleep the night before.

While the eighth-ranked Tar Heels probably didn't scare anybody too badly with its semi-ragged 80-66 win over Lipscomb to start the season, Henson was at least able to leave the Bisons with a few memories that should cause a sleepless night or two.

The forward scored 10 points to go along with a career-high seven blocks and a career-high 17 rebounds as Carolina took its first step toward trying to forget last season and its 17 losses.

"As a team, we have a lot of scorers," Henson said. "We need someone to get rebounds and stuff like that. That's what I was trying to do."

Junior forward Tyler Zeller led the Heels with 15 points, scoring 11 of those in the second half after finally shaking free of constant double-teaming from the Bisons, something Carolina players said they weren't expecting.

Hyped freshman Harrison Barnes, after a disappointing performance in Carolina's only exhibition game, bounced back to score 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting.

"I knew I couldn't get any worse," Barnes joked.

Barnes wasn't the only freshman to make an impact in his debut.

Kendall Marshall scored 10 points and led the team with three assists, while Reggie Bullock had 12 points, including a couple of big 3-pointers early that helped the Tar Heels' answer Lipscomb's outside shooting.

"They can all play," Zeller said. "They're going to be a great asset to us."

Henson's total was the highest rebounding count for a Tar Heel since Tyler Hansbrough had 21 against Florida State in 2008.

The problem for Carolina was that aside from Henson, everybody else was getting beat up on the glass for a good part of the game.

UNC ended up with a 48-39 edge in rebounding overall, but they got beat to plenty of loose balls produced by Lipscomb's 35-percent shooting.

The Tar Heels also missed 13 free throws, including eight in the second half.

They had two more turnovers (14) than assists (12).

And they had trouble defending the 3-point line, allowing the Bisons to hit seven threes in the first half.

Basically, there were quite a few familiar themes from last season's 17-loss campaign.

But at least the Heels were able to adjust to that last problem - they held Lipscomb to a 2-for-9 clip from outside in the second half.

"You always want to make people be like, 'Whoa' but this was a real good team," Henson said. "They played us tough."

UNC point guard Larry Drew II had said the day before the game that the Tar Heels were focused on action as opposed to talk.

But the early action wasn't much to talk about for the Tar Heels, who came out looking a bit uninspired considering how much they were looking forward to erasing the memories of last season.

The Bisons hit a pair of threes early to jump out to a 10-4 lead, and they didn't stop firing from outside.

Carolina answered eventually and went into the locker room with a 43-35 halftime lead.

But the second half saw Lipscomb get even closer, pulling within three points of the Tar Heels with 8 minutes to go.

That's when sophomore Leslie McDonald hit a big shot to kill any momentum for the Bisons, allowing the Heels to recover and go on to lead by as many as 16 near the end.

All in all, tt was far from perfect, but it was something to build on: A fresh start for Henson and the rest of the Tar Heels.

"We just had to get that bad taste out of our mouths," Henson said. "It's a new beginning for all of us. We're off to a good start."


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