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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels survive Valpo’s challenge

Senior Deon Thompson led the Tar Heels with 20 points Sunday against Valparaiso. DTH/Phong Dinh
Senior Deon Thompson led the Tar Heels with 20 points Sunday against Valparaiso. DTH/Phong Dinh

North Carolina’s Will Graves had to think for a few seconds before assigning a grade to his team’s performance in its 88-77 victory against Valparaiso.

His final verdict? The Tar Heels passed — but barely.

“I’d say a D,” Graves said. “We showed intensity in spurts, but you can get a couple questions right on a test and still come out with a D.”

Roy Williams said he was glad his team got the win, but that was about all he was happy about afterward.

“It’s wasn’t very pretty, it didn’t have the intensity that I thought we would have today, it didn’t have the sharpness on the offensive end,” Williams said. “There were some wild turnovers.”

UNC (3-0) committed 14 turnovers against the Crusaders’ zone defense, most of them coming on reckless passes on the secondary break.

Marcus Ginyard and Larry Drew II were the main culprits, giving the ball away nine times combined.

Drew said he was going to take his high turnover total personally.

“A couple passes, it seemed like it was there,” Drew said. “Coach is always yelling, ‘Make a bounce pass, make a bounce pass.’ It’s just something I’ve got to try and carry on to the next game.”

It wasn’t all bad for North Carolina, who did have four players score in double figures.

Deon Thompson led UNC in points and rebounds with 20 and 8, respectively, and UNC held a comfortable lead for most of the second half. The margin ballooned to 24 points with 11:55 left in the game.

But that’s when possessions got sloppy for UNC, and Valparaiso’s shooting began to heat up.

Crusaders guard Brandon Wood was on fire after intermission, scoring 20 of his 30 points in the game’s final 20 minutes.

Wood made four of five three-pointers in that half, and Valparaiso as a team shot 7-for-10 from the three-point line in the same period.

He and his teammates’ offensive efficiency chipped away at UNC’s formerly sizable cushion, bringing the margin down to just nine points with 1:52 to go in the game.

 “It seemed like he didn’t miss a shot,” Drew said. “He would score it seemed like every time we had a turnover.”

But by the time Valparaiso got within striking distance, it was too late for the Crusaders to finish their comeback. UNC forward Travis Wear made a layup to put UNC’s lead back into double digits, and Drew iced the game with a pair of free throws shortly thereafter.

Williams was far from pleased that his team allowed the Crusaders to come back and make the game interesting.

He gave Valparaiso (0-2) credit for its intensity, but added that UNC will need to play on a higher level if it expects to survive the rest of its brutal non-conference schedule.

The Tar Heels travel to Madison Square Garden in New York next week, where they could play two ranked opponents.

“I said before the season started that some days we’re going to be pretty good and some days we’re going to be pretty ugly,” Williams said. “We have no chance in New York if we play this way.”

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