CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A quick look at No. 4/6 North Carolina’s 97-48 victory over Evansville at the Smith Center on Tuesday:
What it means: After an emotional one-point loss at top-ranked Kentucky on Saturday, this might have been exactly what UNC needed to begin a nine-game homestand: an easy, emotionless blowout. Senior forward Tyler Zeller, with 12 points, left the game one point of 1,000 for his career. But coach Roy Williams was able to substitute liberally and play with different lineups, as even the walk-ons started checking in with 4:38 left.
How it happened: The Tar Heels looked focused from the outset, sharing the ball, playing good defense. By the 10-minute mark, Evansville had accumulated more fouls (10) than points (9) – and UNC systematically built its lead by making shots (60 percent in the first half) while shutting down the Purple Aces (23.3 percent in the first half).
Even when the Tar Heels made mistakes, they made up for it. Case in point: Point guard Kendall Marshall committed a silly foul on an Evansville 3-point attempt 5 seconds before halftime. After Colt Ryan made all three free throws, Marshall wiggled in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make sure the Tar Heels had a 30-point lead, 52-22, at halftime.
UNC only expanded on it from there.
Harrison Barnes finished with 17 points, John Henson added 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Zeller had 10 rebounds. Reggie Bullock added 15 points off the bench. Denver Holmes led the Aces with 14 points.
Injury report: With 11:36 left, UNC reserve guard P.J. Hairston – his left wrist already taped after spraining it last week – appeared to roll his right ankle. He walked gingerly off the court, and eventually back to the locker room. He returned to the bench with about eight minutes left, his right shoe off and foot wrapped in ice.
Hubbub: Oscar-nominated director Spike Lee, in town to speak on his impact on the film industry, attended the game. During a timeout with 15:26 left, his image was flashed on the video boards and he was introduced as a “closet” Tar Heels fan.
What’s next: UNC continues its nine-game homestand on Saturday against Long Beach State. Evansville will play North Carolina A&T at home, also on Saturday.
Robbi Pickeral can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: bylinerp.