College Basketball: North Carolina 81, Dayton 51

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 31, 2006

By Bret Strelow

Salisbury Post

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina players claim the dedication to defense has improved.

Dayton coach Brian Gregory observed the difference first-hand.

The second-ranked Tar Heels earned their ninth consecutive win with an

81-51 victory against the visiting Flyers on Sunday afternoon.

Dayton (10-3) shot 21.9 percent in the first half, which ended with North Carolina (12-1) holding a

34-18 lead. The Flyers shot 30.5 percent for the game and became the fifth straight UNC opponent to fall short of 40 percent.

“It’s a different team,” Gregory said. “I think they’ve pinpointed what they need to get better at, and they’re doing a good job of doing it. What they do is force you to make a basketball play on every single possession. Unfortunately, in this day and age, there’s just not a lot of guys that can do that all the time. And maybe a couple of them are playing on their team.”

North Carolina senior Wes Miller said he noticed a change after his team’s 94-69 victory against High Point on Dec. 9.

UNC Asheville scored 39 first-half points against UNC a week later but shot only 23.3 percent in the second half.

Florida Atlantic, Rutgers and Dayton have failed to score 20 first-half points against the Tar Heels in their last four games.

“You can see it with defensive grading from the beginning of the year until now,” UNC guard Marcus Ginyard said. “The beginning of the year, whoever wins the defensive award would win it by nine, 10, 11 more good plays on defense. Now they’re winning by two or three.”

Tyler Hansbrough (17 points), Brandan Wright (16 points) and Wayne Ellington (15 points) led a UNC offense that committed 21 turnovers against the Flyers.

The Tar Heels defense was still strong enough to produce a blowout victory.

“When you hold a team to 21 percent in the first half, you know that you’re going to be OK regardless of what you’re doing on offense,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.

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

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