Buzz Peterson was worried.
The Tulsa coach looked over the box score from No. 6 North Carolina's narrow 66-61 victory Friday against Winthrop and noticed something odd: UNC preseason All-Americans Joseph Forte and Brendan Haywood combined for just 20 points.
The duo bounced back Saturday against Tulsa. They each had reached the 20-point barrier with 16:54 left in the game and ended up accounting for 62 points as the Tar Heels defeated Tulsa 91-81 to win the NABC Classic.
"Probably the worst thing that happened to us was (Friday) night when those two guys had bad games," Peterson said. "They responded and had great games tonight."
Forte put on a show for the 19,875 fans at the Smith Center. The sophomore established a new career high with 38 points. He shot 10-for-18 from the field, including 6-for-8 from 3-point range and 12-for-13 at the foul line.
Forte's sharp shooting came after he struggled through a 2-for-11 game against Winthrop the night before.
"I wanted to come out and score as many points as possible," Forte said. "I think I kind of embarrassed myself (Friday). I was a little down on myself, so I wanted to go out there and show everybody why people were giving me the praise they were before the season."
Forte also added 10 rebounds and six assists, which tied a career high. His two-game totals of 48 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists earned him tournament MVP honors.
Forte found plenty of open shots because Tulsa focused on Haywood down low. But that strategy didn't play out too well as UNC's 7-footer enjoyed a large size advantage on the Golden Hurricane, which didn't start a player taller than 6-foot-7.
Haywood shot 7-for-11 from the field and made 10 of his 12 free throws as he piled up 24 points of his own.
"They definitely didn't have a lot of post players who were my size," said Haywood, who also grabbed eight rebounds. "Coach (Matt) Doherty emphasized that if we get the ball inside, that will definitely open up the outside, and that's exactly what happened."
Haywood also made use of his size advantage on the defensive end. He stood in the middle of an aggressive Tar Heel zone and swatted away six Golden Hurricane shots, one shy of his career high. He also had five rejections against Winthrop despite playing just 24 minutes after picking up two early fouls.
In light of that, Doherty said he used more zone against Tulsa to keep his bigger players out of foul trouble against the Golden Hurricane's smaller but quicker lineup.
It worked. With Haywood as its anchor, the UNC defense forced Tulsa away from the basket and held David Shelton, the team's leading scorer last season, to one point.
To compensate, the Golden Hurricane (1-1) fired up tons of 3-pointers. Tulsa went 8-of-19 from downtown in the first half and cut what was a
17-point UNC lead to six at intermission.
But Tulsa went cold in the second stanza, connecting on 4-of-19 attempts from behind the arc.
"That zone, we were trying to get the ball inside, but once he blocked a couple shots in there it forced us to try different things," Peterson said. "I know we jacked up a lot there late. But we took more than I wanted to early. We hit a couple, and it's like fool's gold - we think we can keep making it."
UNC (2-0) got hot while Tulsa went cold. The Tar Heels shot 52 percent from the field in the second half and led by as many as 18. The offense looked much better than it did against Winthrop (0-2).
"We didn't run as many set plays," Doherty said. "I think that helped us get into a better rhythm. I thought that (Friday) night we didn't get into a rhythm."
The Tar Heels shot 39 percent Friday. The Eagles not only shot a higher percentage than UNC, but they also pulled down more rebounds.
UNC's shooting woes began early as the Tar Heels missed six of their first seven shots and fell behind 12-4.
Then Doherty was whistled for a technical foul just six minutes into his first game as UNC coach. He said that it was a misunderstanding. He was stomping on the floor to get Brian Morrison's attention, and the referee thought Doherty's actions were directed at him.
Regardless, the technical motivated the Tar Heels, who ran off nine straight points after a Winthrop free throw to pull into a tie.
"It was a very timely technical, let's just say that," Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall said. "It changed the complexion of the basketball game."
NABC Classic Notes
n Haywood and Forte made the all-tournament team. They were joined by forward Shawn Redhage of Arizona State, Winthrop guard Pierre Wooten and Tulsa forward Marcus Hill, who scored 23 points against UNC.
n UNC forward Kris Lang didn't start against Tulsa because he showed up a few minutes late to the team's pregame meal.
n Michael Brooker got the start in Lang's place, a bit of a surprise considering he played in 18 of UNC's 34 games last year. Doherty said Brooker moved to the first team in practice last week after Max Owens was injured.
Doherty said he was pleased with Brooker's defense and hard play along with his shooting abilities. "As long as he keeps making the simple pass, he'll keep getting playing time."
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