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College Basketball: North Carolina 105, Florida Atlantic 52

By Bret Strelow

Salisbury Post

CHAPEL HILL — Roy Williams said Michael Jordan, Raymond Felton and Rex Walters are three of the toughest competitors he’s coached.

That asset didn’t help Walters’ short-handed Florida Atlantic team hang with North Carolina.

The second-ranked Tar Heels earned a 105-52 win against the visiting Owls on Tuesday night. Walters, who played for Williams at Kansas and took over at Florida Atlantic following Matt Doherty’s departure to SMU in April, coached without the services of his top two scorers.

“You guys have no idea what it’s like to coach a youngster that gave you every ounce of his heart, body and soul and then see him down on the other end of the bench without near the weapons we had,” Williams said.

All five of North Carolina’s starters scored in double figures for the first time this season, and Tyler Hansbrough led the way with 20 points.

FAU played without Paul Graham and Carlos Monroe but welcomed back DeAndre Rice, who led the team in scoring last season and produced 13 points in his first game since regaining his eligibility.

The Owls, who lost by 45 points to Oklahoma State on Nov. 10 but entered Chapel Hill with four wins in their last five games, trailed 38-7 after 12 minutes of play at the Smith Center. FAU (4-6) reached double digits with 6:56 left in the half and went into the break facing a 65-18 deficit.

“The bottom line was we were more gifted anyway, and then when you get to a point where they don’t have their two leading scorers, it’s really difficult for Rex’s club to have much of a chance,” Williams said. “I loved our intensity in the first half. I loved our attention to detail and loved just about everything we did.”

Complete records weren’t available, but North Carolina associate athletic director for communications Steve Kirschner said the 47-point halftime lead is believed to be the largest in school history. The Tar Heels were ahead 67-24 midway through a 129-45 victory against Manhattan in 1985.

“Sometimes I get stubborn,” Walters said. “I want to do things that I feel will help us get better even if I know it doesn’t give us the best opportunity — trying to come out and play man-to-man defense, trying to come out and run some of our stuff, which I know they know because it’s the same stuff they run. They just do it at a higher level.”

A 3-pointer by Sean Alarcon pulled the Owls within 4-3, but North Carolina (9-1) scored 30 of the next 32 points. The Tar Heels were already 13-for-14 from the line at that point because of a 7-0 foul discrepancy, and UNC committed its first foul with 9:43 left in the half.

North Carolina went 22-for-24 from the line (91.7 percent) and 20-for-27 from the field (74.1 percent) in the opening half. The Tar Heels hadn’t shot that well from the field in a half since they fired at a 78.9-percent clip in the final 20 minutes at N.C. State in 2000, and they hadn’t scored at such a high rate since a 68-point outburst in the second half of a home victory against George Mason in 2003.

A behind-the-back pass from 5-foot-11 point guard Ty Lawson led to a second-half dunk, and he later had a fastbreak slam of his own.

“I wanted to prove a point to the team because everybody was saying I couldn’t dunk,” Lawson said.

Lawson still has at least one doubter.

“He hit a bouncy spot on the floor,” Williams said.

UNC played zone defense for the first extended stretch of the season in the second half, and no starter saw action in the final 10 minutes. Danny Green led the team with 23 minutes, and 10 players were in for at least 14 minutes.

A 3-pointer from Wes Miller pushed the Tar Heels past the 100-point mark with 5:05 left, and Williams embraced Walters at midcourt as the final buzzer sounded.

“It was difficult for me,” Walters said. “Every day I live I try to make him proud.”

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Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or bstrelow@salisburypost.com.

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