CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A quick look at No. 4/6 North Carolina’s 84-78 victory over over Long Beach State at the Smith Center on Saturday:
What it means: That UNC can begin its week off for exams with a sigh of relief. Having already played at the likes of Louisville and Kansas, and won on the road at Pitt, Long Beach State was not intimidated by playing the Tar Heels at the Smith Center – and the 49ers showed it. LBSU led by 5 points at halftime, and UNC needed a season-high 24 points from John Henson, 20 points from Harrison Barnes and 16 assists from point guard Kendall Marshall to survive.
How it happened: LBSU led 45-40 at the break, on the strength of 21 first-half points from point guard Casper Ware – and back-to-back 3s in the final minute by guard Larry Anderson. Not only were the taller Tar Heels outrebounded in the first half, 19-16, but UNC guards Dexter Strickland, Marshall and P.J. Hairston were a combined 0-for-9 (and 0-for-6 from 3-point land).
Trailing 55-54 with about 14 minutes left in the second half, UNC finally began its breakaway when reserve guard Reggie Bullock scored his team’s next eight points, to give the Tar Heels a 62-59 lead. Buckets by Strickland, Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and Henson eventually extended the run to 18-6, giving UNC a double-figures lead at 72-61.
Ware, who scored 22 against the Tar Heels last season, scored 29 on Saturday night.
Injury report: After spraining his right ankle Tuesday, sitting out of practice Wednesday, but returning to workouts Friday, Hairston was in uniform and played, but missed all three of his shots in 9 minutes.
Hubbub: UNC forward Zeller became the 64th Tar Heels player to record 1,000 points early in the game. He got a standing ovation when it was announced at the Smith Center.
What’s next: UNC has a week off for exams before playing Appalachian State next Saturday. LBSU will face Eastern New Mexico at home on Dec. 19.
Robbi Pickeral can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: bylinerp.