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December 29, 2011
Heels clip Phoenix' wings
The Phoenix could not rise on Thursday as Carolina kept in a heap of ashes.
The fifth-ranked Tar Heels defeated Elon 100-62 and looked good doing it.
Unlike the 50-point victory against Nicholls, in which the Tar Heels won by 50 points but did not play well, Carolina shined against the Phoenix.
"Whenever we played Nicholls, we didn't do what we were supposed to," said senior forward Tyler Zeller, who had 19 points, a team-high 13 rebounds, a block and a steal.
This time the Tar Heels (12-2) had an excellent mental and physical focus from the start. They scored 36 first-half points in the lane compared to eight for Elon (7-5).
"Some of it is ACC play is right around the corner," Zeller said. "We realize we can't have games where we slack off, where we don't go as hard as we can. We came out tonight and tried to play the best we could possibly play."
UNC also tied the school record for consecutive victories at the Smith Center with 25. The Tar Heels have now won 55 straight against non-conference opponents at home.
"It means a lot," Zeller said. "We've had a lot of good teams come in, and being able to put anything in the record books at this great university is very cool."
Elon shot 20.5 percent from the field (8-39) in the first and 33 percent for the game. The Phoenix could not get close to the bucket because of Carolina's superior size and tenacious defense.
"We didn't shoot it very well [in the first half]," Coach Roy Williams said. "But I thought we were really good defensively. We were attentive. We were really good on the backboards."
Carolina out-rebounded Elon 64-35 in the game, with 24 of UNC's boards coming on the offensive end. The Tar Heels scored 27 points off their offensive rebounds.
A nearly full house came to see this game, and the Tar Heels gave them some fond memories to take home.
Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Zeller showed the Elon players and the crowd why they are all potential All-Americans.
By halftime, Henson had double figures in points (14) and rebounds (11). Barnes scored 10 points and continued to attack the basket as he has been doing more all season. He finished with 18 points and five assists to no turnovers.
Zeller had nine of his eventual 13 rebounds in the first half. Zeller started to score more in the second half while continuing to rebound. He finished with a team-high 19 points.
Harrison put the crowd on its feet when he drove the baseline and did a Jerry Stackhouse-like reverse dunk.
"It was fun," Harrison said. "My teammates got on me at halftime in the locker room about missing some of those easy ones at the basket that I could have turned over and dunked."
Williams used his bench liberally, so Marshall played just 12 minutes in the first half, but in that time he had five assists and one turnover. The surprise was Marshall's eight-first half points. He sank two 3-point shots and was 3-for-3 from the field. He finished with eight assists and one turnover.
"Kendall was something," Williams said. "I agree he didn't call bank on one of those 3s, but eight assists and one turnover, and on that one turnover, John would have had an open layup, but he turned and went a different way."
When the Tar Heels returned from holiday break, they had eight practices and three games to get ready for the ACC season.
They seemed to take this period seriously as far as using it to get better.
"The whole plan is to get better everywhere, not just on the defensive end," Williams said. "When we brought them back, we had eight practices and three games before the next time we have to go to class. So that means we are a basketball team now.
"So let's focus on basketball. I think we got better in practice, and I think we got better in the first half tonight. I think it's good for us to get a chance to play."