Tar Heels trump Evansville as Zeller closes in on 1,000th career point
No. 4 North Carolina led Evansville 63-27 with just more than 14 minutes to go in the first half when senior forward Tyler Zeller scored his 999th career point at the Smith Center on Tuesday night.
But the senior forward will have to wait a little bit longer for point No. 1,000.
The Tar Heels handedly beat the Purple Aces, and Zeller, one point shy of his milestone, went to the bench for the rest of the game with more than eight minutes to go in the second half.
But after a 97-48 victory, the senior forward didn’t have much to complain about.
“Coach told me he has confidence I’ll score one more bucket this year,” he said.
Five different players had double-digit points in Tuesday’s game, and Zeller and forward John Henson each recorded a double-double.
For Williams, the commanding lead throughout the game was significant, as it gave him the opportunity to give his bench players some much-needed playing time.
“It would have been nice to have gotten Z one more point,” Williams said. “But I wanted to get those guys out of there. I like it when I look down and Kendall has 25 and nobody else has more than 22 minutes. That’s the way it should be.”
Sophomore forward Harrison Barnes led all scorers with 17 points, and sophomore reserve guard Reggie Bullock wasn’t far behind with 15. Bullock, who shot four of seven from behind the arc against Evansville, was one of six bench players to record at least nine minutes of playing time.
It took UNC more than two minutes to score its first field goal against the Purple Aces, but once North Carolina took a 4-3 lead, it never turned back.
UNC took its first double-digit lead just more than five minutes into the first half, and the Tar Heels led by as much as 51 in the game.
Point guard Kendall Marshall was pleased to see his team show full effort early, even against an unranked opponent.
“The thing I was most worried about coming into this game was how we were going to start it,” Marshall said. “I think it was big for us to come out with intensity, and I think we took a step forward maturing wise, of not playing to the level of our competition.”
The game against Evansville was, for the most part, one-sided. But that doesn’t mean UNC didn’t take anything from it.
For a team fresh from a loss, the opportunity to correct mistakes and refine old habits is something almost as valuable as the victory itself.
“We’ve got to keep that focus,” guard Dexter Strickland said. “I think the loss to Kentucky motivated everybody since we lost by one point. We felt like we could have easily corrected some of the mistakes we had made down the stretch.
“But this game was good for us and the next game is going to be the same way.”
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