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January 2, 2011

UNC rips Red Flash

CHAPEL HILL - Perhaps North Carolina's new year's resolution was to not make St. Francis feel too bad too quickly.

In the end, it was unavoidable, as the Tar Heels dispatched the completely overmatched Red Flash 103-54.

While the first half started a little sluggishly, Carolina (10-4) was dominant in a second half that saw St. Francis (2-11) miss 15 of its first 19 field-goal attempts.

Carolina's defense held St. Francis to 25.7-percent shooting in the second half, including an 0-for-7 mark from 3-point range.

"I thought we were good defensively today," UNC coach Roy Williams said.

In addition to the low shooting percentage for the Red Flash, Carolina also forced 16 turnovers, which in turn got the transition game going.

The defensive standout for Carolina was point guard Larry Drew II.

The only evidence in the box score of that defensive success was two steals, a feat matched by two other Tar Heels.

But it was the way that Drew stayed up on his man that threw off the entire St. Francis offense, either by leading to a bad shot, no shot at all or a takeaway for a teammate.

Drew exerted himself so much on defense that twice he had to flash the tired signal to the bench.

"Larry was sensational defensively," Williams said. "He set the tempo in getting some of those turnovers."

Offensively, the Tar Heels had eight players in double figures, the most since a game against Manhattan in 1985.

And they were all within three points of one another.

"We're just sharing the ball, working on the things we need to work on," freshman guard Reggie Bullock said. "We're gelling as a team."

The only player to play more than 15 minutes and not score in double figures was backup point guard Kendall Marshall, but he made up for that with eight assists.

"My teammates do a great job of finishing," Marshall said. "Everyone was finishing shots today. I think we're getting there. We're playing well right now."

Early on, the Red Flash didn't look as overmatched as it probably should have, given the comparison of the teams on paper.

The Tar Heels took numerous outside shots in the game's opening minutes when getting the ball to the paint probably would have brought more scoring success.

During that stretch, St. Francis actually led by as many as three, and were up 9-8 when Carolina finally got a little more into a scoring groove.

"If we hit those shots, it's a different story, and we're off to a fast start," Marshall said.

UNC's first double-figure lead came courtesy of a 17-6 run that gave the Heels breathing room if not necessarily an instant blowout.

Later in the first half was when the Tar Heels really started to get active with hands in passing lanes, which led to transition offense.

Despite some lingering sloppiness, Carolina went into the break leading 52-33, thanks in large part to 62.5-percent shooting.

"We didn't come out playing the way we wanted today," Williams said. "But then we settled down and got focused and got the ball inside."

But given the caliber of opponent, the success in this last tune-up before visiting Virginia wasn't enough for Williams to declare the Tar Heels ready for the conference schedule.

"I don't know if any coach would ever say they're ready," Williams said. "Opening up on the road in the ACC is not easy no matter where you go."

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