WILMINGTON, North Carolina – The 14th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels used a stifling 30-3 run early in the second half to cruise past UNCW, 97-69, in only the fourth meeting between the two state schools late Wednesday at the Dean E. Smith Center.
The Tar Heels raised their record to 7-2 by building a nine-point halftime cushion and extending the margin to as many as 34 points in the final period. The Seahawks lost their second game in a row and carry a 4-6 record into a 10-day break for end-of-the-semester exams.
Graduate guard Cameron Johnson anchored four players in double figures for North Carolina with 21 points. Freshman forward Nassir Little added 14 points, while senior guard Kenny Williams and senior forward Luke Maye contributed 11 points apiece.
Junior forward Jeantal Cylla paced the Seahawks with 16 points and sophomore guard Jay Estime’ chipped in 12 markers. UNCW managed just 35.5 percent from the field, its second poorest shooting night of the young season.
UNCW fell behind early and rallied to take a brief lead midway in the first half before the Tar Heels regained the advantage for good and capitalized on a cold spell by the Seahawks early in the second half.
Trailing, 44-35, at halftime, the Seahawks scored the first two buckets of the final period and Cylla’s jumper along the left baseline pulled C.B. McGrath’s club within 44-39 with 19:10 remaining.
The Seahawks were still hanging around, 48-41, with just over 17 minutes left when the bottom dropped out. Sparked by Johnson and junior guard Seventh Woods, the Tar Heels scored 16 consecutive points and added another spurt of 14 unanswered points in the 30-3 run that broke the game open.
UNCW went 1-for-13 from the floor in the stretch and committed seven turnovers in a 7:22 span as the Tar Heels scored in a variety of ways. The Seahawks finished with 25 turnovers and the Tar Heels scored 34 points off those miscues.
UNCW spotted the Tar Heels the first seven points of the game before junior guard Jaylen Fornes converted a driving layup with just under 18 minutes left to get the Seahawks on the board.
After a Cylla jumper on the left wing closed the early deficit to 9-6, North Carolina reeled off seven unanswered points to pull ahead, 16-6, capped by Little’s dunk at 12:35.
The Seahawks still trailed, 22-15, at the 11-minute mark before using a 9-0 spurt to grab their first lead of the contest. A triple by Fornes on the right side with 8:34 left in the opening half gave the Seahawks a 24-22 edge.
But the Tar Heels responded in a big way with a 10-0 run of their own and maintained the margin for the remainder of the first period. Johnson did most of the damage and wound up with 13 points in the first 20 minutes for the Tar Heels.
DUNK PARTY: The Tar Heels had five dunks in the contest.
BREAKING IT DOWN: North Carolina shot 51.4 percent to build its nine-point lead in the first half and outscored the Seahawks, 53-34, in the second half.
ACC STREAK: The Seahawks have now lost nine consecutive games to Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. UNCW’s last win over an ACC school came on Dec. 12, 2010, in an 81-69 victory over Wake Forest at the Greensboro Coliseum.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS: In the four-game series between the two clubs, the Tar Heels have beaten three different UNCW head coaches (Brad Brownell, Buzz Peterson, C.B. McGrath).
QUOTABLE: “Things didn’t go our way early in the second half, we got down on ourselves and we never recovered. Carolina came at us and we knew they would with their double teams, pressure and length and we let that bother us more than we should have. We played a really good minute in the second half.”– UNCW Head Coach C.B. McGrath
NEXT UP: The Seahawks return to the floor on Saturday, Dec. 15, with another non-conference matchup against 25th-ranked Furman in Greenville, S.C.