College Basketball: North Carolina 102, Penn 64
CHAPEL HILL — The way North Carolina is playing defense lately, its offense doesn’t really need to reach triple figures to win games.
Then again, these up-tempo Tar Heels aren’t about to revert to Dean Smith’s four-corners system, either.
“Just because we’re playing good ‘D,’ I don’t think coach (Roy Williams) wants us to hold the ball,” Tyler Hansbrough said. “We’re an up-and-down team, and that’s what Coach wants us to do.”
Hansbrough and Reyshawn Terry scored 19 points apiece, and No. 2 North Carolina routed Pennsylvania 102-64 on Wednesday night for its 10th straight victory.
Penn entered with the Ivy League’s most productive offense, but the Quakers wound up being no match for a North Carolina defense which hasn’t allowed a team to score 70 points since No. 6 Ohio State had 89 on Nov. 29, a span of eight games.
“You want to stay away from turnovers and low field-goal percentage against this team because they get out in transition and convert better than anybody in the United States,” Penn coach Glen Miller said.
The Tar Heels turned up the pressure on the Quakers’ backdoor cutters and patient scheme, forcing them into 21 turnovers, scoring 31 points off those miscues and reaching the 100-point mark for the fifth time this season.
“I never thought (playing pressure defense) would lose a game for me,” Williams said. “You can put pressure on the ball, which makes that pass be off just a little bit. … Over the course of the game, they did turn it over a couple of times. We got a couple of those.”
Wayne Ellington scored 17 points and fellow freshman Brandan Wright added 12 for North Carolina (13-1), which fell behind by 10 early but used a 27-4 run late in the first half to take command against the Quakers (6-6).
Ibrahim Jaaber scored 21 points in his second straight big game for Penn, which has lost four of six.
Ellington came up two points shy of his career high of 19 set against Gardner-Webb and matched against Ohio State.
The Tar Heels remained perfect since Gonzaga gave them their only loss of the season Nov. 22 in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
North Carolina finished its home nonconference schedule 9-0, with its Jan. 27 game at No. 7 Arizona the last remaining game outside the CC until tournament time.
Jaaber had a career-high 32 in his team’s last game, a loss at Seton Hall on Dec. 23.
Penn was playing just its third game since Dec. 9, but in this one the Quakers came out looking more rested than rusty.
Relying on backdoor cuts and patient offensive play, Penn led 18-8 on Kevin Egee’s 3-pointer with about 12 minutes left in the half.
“Everything was working early,” Jaaber said. “I don’t think we did a lot of executing in the past game, so I don’t know if they knew a lot of our options, and we did a lot of backdoor options early because they were overplaying the wings. I guess it caught them off guard a little bit.”
That’s when guard Bobby Frasor — who returned after missing six straight games with an injured right foot — started the decisive run with a 3-pointer from the right corner, then an 18-footer from the wing.
“I’ve always been able to shoot on my foot, so I’ve continued that,” Frasor said. “I caught them in rhythm, luckily they went in and kind of gave our team a boost.”
Ty Lawson gave North Carolina the lead for good during the spurt when his steal and layup made it 19-18 at the 10:10 mark. Ellington capped the run with a three-point play sandwiched between a pair of 3-pointers, the last of which made it 35-22 with about 4 minutes until halftime.
“I just kind of lost myself in the game,” Ellington said. “I was involved in the defensive end and the offense end, and that brought my jump shot to me.”