CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—North Carolina remembered the sting of last season’s surprising loss at North Carolina State and knew the Wolfpack were picked in the preseason to be one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s best.
The top-ranked Tar Heels made both look like little more than fleeting memories Saturday.
Deon Thompson and Ty Lawson each scored 16 points and North Carolina scored 25 straight points in the first half of a 93-62 victory over the Wolfpack, giving the Tar Heels their largest victory margin in the series in nearly 15 years.
Tyler Hansbrough had 13 points and 13 rebounds to help the Tar Heels (17-0, 2-0) match the 1997-98 team with 17 straight wins to start the season, their best since winning 21 straight to open 1985-86.
Danny Green added 13 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and four blocks for North Carolina, which opened a 43-13 halftime lead and turned the game into a total disaster for an opponent with ambitions of joining the ACC’s perennially elite.
“We’re the No. 1 team in the nation I guess for a reason,” Thompson said. “If we just play how we’re supposed to play, then that’s the way it should be.”
The Tar Heels turned in the kind of balanced performance they’ll need to stay atop the rankings. North Carolina shot 49 percent, held a 50-34 rebounding advantage, had 27 assists on 36 field goals and had five players score in double figures.
Inevitably, Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams found something to be displeased with: namely, that his team didn’t play with the same intensity after the break. By then, of course, N.C. State (11-4, 0-1) was playing only for pride.
“It’s hard to maintain the kind of play we had in the first half,” Williams said.
Thompson had a career high in points to go with three early blocks, while Lawson—who twisted his right ankle in the first half—finished with a career-high four 3-pointers. That more than offset a 3-for-11 shooting day for Hansbrough, though the Tar Heels didn’t need much offense from him.
“That’s what we need: everyone stepping up and everyone contributing,” said Wayne Ellington, who had 13 points. “(Williams) wants guys coming off the bench to be prepared and give us an extra boost. Everyone that was on the floor was just contributing in any kind of way: getting a rebound, getting a deflection. Everybody brought something positive today.”
About the only positive for the Wolfpack was that they played the Tar Heels evenly in the second half. Of course, N.C. State—the preseason pick to finish third in the ACC—was expecting a lot more out of this season than moral victories.
Courtney Fells had 16 points to lead N.C. State, which shot just 6-for-34 (18 percent) in a first half straight out of coach Sidney Lowe’s nightmares. The Wolfpack got no closer than 26 points in the second half.
The only drama early was whether the Wolfpack would challenge Saint Louis’ record for scoring futility—20 points—set this week against George Washington. From there, the only question left was whether the Tar Heels would crack the 100-point mark yet again.
This is the first time ever North Carolina has scored at least 90 points in seven straight games.
“I’m kind of speechless because I didn’t see that coming,” said Ben McCauley, who had eight points and four rebounds for N.C. State. “I thought we were much better than that. Unfortunately, we didn’t play up to our potential, and as you saw, we got our butts whipped.”
Lowe, wearing the bright red blazer from last season’s upset of the Tar Heels in Raleigh, watched helplessly from the bench as his team missed shot after shot. Trailing 16-11 midway through the first half, N.C. State missed 18 straight shots and went scoreless over a 10-minute stretch as the Tar Heels— who were shooting just 43 percent—methodically built a 30-point lead.
By the time Fells knocked down a jumper from the left corner to end the streak, the Wolfpack trailed 41-13 with 1:19 left and the North Carolina fans were offering loud, mocking cheers.
Lowe sounded like he hoped the lopsided loss got the attention of his team, which is hindered by its lack of a proven point guard and an apparent lack of chemistry.
“This is how the conference is going to be played,” Lowe said. “I don’t know about building on it, but understand that this is the type of environment we are going to be in and we are going to have to execute.”