After trailing early in its 82-63 loss to No. 5 North Carolina on Wednesday, Texas scored seven unanswered points to cut into No. 5 North Carolina’s double-digit lead and pull within eight points.
But that quickly died. The Tar Heels quickly squelched the Longhorns’ momentum with a 15-5 run that put UNC ahead by double digits for good.
P.J. Hairston posterized Texas guard Julien Lewis to initiate that run, but the Tar Heels sustained it and much of their offense with smart, unselfish play – the kind of play that led to eight UNC players scoring with three in double digits.
“I think (Hairston’s dunk) got everybody into the game, and that kind of pushed us ahead,” UNC forward John Henson said. “It was a great dunk. I’m going to go on Youtube and watch it a few more times.”
While the Tar Heels played what forward Tyler Zeller said was one of their two best defensive games, UNC’s offense was too potent for Texas on the other end.
UNC point guard Kendall Marshall said that defensive play helped foster offensive production, and once North Carolina built a lead, its individual talent did the rest.
“Coach always talks about, ‘Let our defense make our offense,’” Marshall said. “I think we did a great job of that tonight. When you’re getting (defensive) stops … it’s a lot easier to get out and run.”
During that particular run, each of North Carolina’s four field goals was assisted and one of those buckets was off a Texas turnover. That largely reflected the rest of the game.
The Tar Heels scored 17 points off turnovers, and 15 of their 28 field goals were set up with a pass.
Leading that campaign was Marshall. The 6-foot-4 ball-handler finished the game with nine assists, right around his average of 10.1 per game this season.
At times Marshall’s assist total was reinforced by a teammate’s good shot, but more often than not the point guard was just making things easy for his teammates.
On one possession, Zeller got the ball in the post, which he was quickly clanged off the rim. But Marshall got the ball back at the top of the key, penetrated, then scooped the ball back to Zeller for a simple two-handed dunk.
“Kendall made some really nice passes, and I told him he made some that I didn’t even want him to think about,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
After building a hefty lead, North Carolina didn’t need Marshall to make as many passes. Of course, that’s due in large part to Harrison Barnes’ second half explosion.
The forward hit 6-of-8 shots and scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half. Barnes also finished with 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
“I think the last couple of games (Barnes) was disappointed with himself,” Henson said. “I think he played great (in those games). Tonight, he just got on a roll. He was a man out there.”
The Tar Heels held Texas back with good defense, but the Longhorns couldn’t score enough to keep up with UNC’s offensive threats.
Henson finished with 14 points and Reggie Bullock added 12, nearly half of the team’s bench production.
“Coach (Williams) told us that he hasn’t beaten Texas since he’s been at Carolina,” Marshall said. “Coach doesn’t like losing. So he was very pumped up about this game, and we followed his lead.”
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