No. 5 North Carolina beats Monmouth 102-65By JOEDY McCREARY, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—The latest footnote to North Carolina’s storied basketball history came at the expense of another former player—and had coach Roy Williams ready to apologize to him.
No. 5 North Carolina claimed its record 26th straight victory at the Smith Center on Sunday with a 102-65 rout of a Monmouth team coached by former Tar Heels point guard King Rice.
John Henson scored 21 points and Harrison Barnes added 18 for the Tar Heels (13-2), who shot 54 percent, built a 55-26 rebounding advantage and used a 33-10 run late in the first half to take a 31-point halftime lead.
“This program is the best basketball family there is in college basketball, and has done it for years and years and years and has never backed up,” Williams said. “I’m proud to be involved … except for when I was going down to the (Monmouth) bench to shake hands, because it doesn’t feel good. That’s King, a guy I recruited, and I was almost apologizing because we made so many shots in the first half, because you feel for that other guy.”
North Carolina cruised from there to break the arena record established from 1992-94—a mark two Monmouth assistants had a role in setting.
Freshman Andrew Nicholas led the Hawks (2-12) with 22 points, including six 3-pointers. Their 42-year-old first-year coach played at North Carolina from 1988-91. Also, assistants Brian Reese and Derrick Phelps started on the 1993 national championship team.
“When I walked in yesterday—and I’ve been in here a million times—I swear it seemed bigger,” Rice said. “I was always so comfortable in here and, just, yesterday it kind of hit me when we walked in.”
P.J. Hairston had 16 points for North Carolina, which won its seventh straight overall and hasn’t lost in its nearly 26-year-old building since Florida State won there on Feb. 24, 2010.
The Tar Heels moved even with Purdue for the fifth-longest active home-court winning streak in Division I—even if they don’t even have the longest one in the 919 area code. Rival Duke entered Sunday night’s game against Pennsylvania having won 42 straight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
In reaching triple figures for the second straight game and fourth time this season, the Tar Heels matched the second-longest home winning streak in program history. They are six wins shy of the school record of 32 straight set in 1929 at the old Indoor Athletic Center, also known as the “Tin Can.”
Reggie Bullock finished with 11 points, Kendall Marshall added 11 assists, Tyler Zeller had 11 rebounds and James Michael McAdoo had 10 rebounds for North Carolina. It improved to 2-0 against teams coached by former Tar Heel players, having already beaten Jason Capel’s Appalachian State team, and will begin ACC play next Saturday against Boston College on quite a roll.
“I like where our team’s at—we’re definitely more prepared than last year,” Barnes said. “As a unit, we’re more locked in.”
Monmouth—a team ranked 310th in an unofficial online replication of the RPI formula, and which is 275th or worse in 12 team stat categories—was beaten by double figures for the 11th time.
“Guys, we fought as hard as we could,” Rice said he told his team afterward. “They were just better than us.”
Rice, who returned to North Carolina in 2005-06 as a volunteer assistant to Williams, received a 30-second standing ovation during pregame introductions from an appreciative Smith Center crowd.
“Just to be part of the Carolina family helps us every day of our lives,” Rice said. “I don’t think there’s any other place that the former players get treated the way we do.”
But after that warm welcome, it was all Tar Heels. Henson scored 15 points in the first half to help them essentially end it.
They reeled off the game’s first 12 points and were only briefly threatened before pulling away with their big run over the final 11 minutes of the half.
Henson’s three-point play with 5:50 left put North Carolina up by 20 for good, and Dexter Strickland stretched it into the 30s when his free throw with 34.6 seconds left made it 54-24. Bullock’s 3 with about 4 seconds left stretched it to 57-26.
“A couple of silly turnovers and a couple of times when we didn’t get the board coverage was about the only thing I had to say negative,” Williams said. “At least (for) every team I’ve ever coached, it’s hard to be up 20 or whatever at half and expect to win by 50 every time.”
Jesse Steele finished with 17 points for Monmouth, which didn’t get closer than 20 points in the second half.
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