The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 1st

Tar Heels cage Bulldogs in return to win column

Will Graves and the Tar Heels got back on track Monday against Gardner-Webb. DTH/Zach Gutterman
Buy Photos Will Graves and the Tar Heels got back on track Monday against Gardner-Webb. DTH/Zach Gutterman

Every time North Carolina felt safe, it heard a familiar, almost chiding response from the PA announcer.

“Three points, Grayson Flittner.”

Dexter Strickland left the man open with the ball.

“Three points, Grayson Flittner.”

Marcus Ginyard couldn’t prevent the pass out of the double team.

“Three points, Grayson Flittner.”

Flittner single-handedly kept Gardner-Webb in the game, going 9-for-16 from long distance. But no matter how well Flittner shot, he simply could not overcome the Bulldogs’ size deficiencies in the post as UNC claimed victory, 93-72.

“It was one of those things where he started hitting, and it was just like, ‘Gosh this is going to be a long night,’” Tyler Zeller said.

Flittner shot enough threes for both teams, and he made enough to keep Gardner-Webb within striking distance. His nine threes tied the Smith Center record for three-pointers made in a single game by an opposing player.

In the first half, Flittner carried the Bulldogs. The 6-foot guard entered the game with five three-pointers on the season, but he connected on six in the first half. The Tar Heels had trouble guarding him, as Ginyard, John Henson and Will Graves all took turns on him, mostly unsuccessfully.

“It was amazing,” Graves said. “I’d have rather it been on our team, making shots like that, but we have to get a hand up or something.”

The Tar Heels attempted only four three-pointers themselves and failed to make a three until reserve Thomas Thornton drained one with 23 seconds remaining in the contest.

“I don’t go in there and tell them (not to shoot any threes in the game), but if their four-man is 6-foot-3,” head coach Roy Williams said, his voice trailing off. “I don’t believe in taking what people give you. I want to get what I want, and if we have a size advantage inside then we should do that.”

The Tar Heels finished the game with a 50-32 rebounding advantage, and those extra rebounds often came off easy tip-ins. Ed Davis and Deon Thompson led the way on the glass with 13 and 10 rebounds, respectively.

UNC rolled the Bulldogs inside the paint, holding a 58 to 12 advantage.

“We were just more focused,” Graves said. “When we bring the intensity, we can always outrebound somebody like that.”

After a 12-point run capped by Davis’ two handed dunk brought the score to 35-17, the Tar Heel advantage never sank below 12 or above 21 for the remainder of the contest.

The Tar Heels’ free-throw woes continued, as the squad combined to finish 18-for-33 behind the stripe, shooting worse at the line (54.5 percent) than they did on field goal attempts (56.1 percent).

Thompson, who scored his 1,000th point on a fast-break dunk, tallied 22 points and 10 rebounds. The 1,000th point gives UNC 63 one-thousand point scorers — the most in NCAA history.

“I’m probably behind Tyler (Hansbrough), that’s what I do know,” Thompson said. “But it is cool to be a part of Carolina history.”

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