No. 5 North Carolina beats Nicholls State 99-49North Carolina's P.J. Hairston (15) drives to the basket as Nicholls State's Sam McBeath (15) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. North Carolina won 99-49. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina's players missed shots, clanked free throws and spent much of the game against Nicholls State looking disinterested. While the outcome was never in doubt, the fifth-ranked Tar Heels did just enough to keep their irked Hall of Fame coach from scheduling an early-morning practice as punishment.
Dexter Strickland scored 14 points to help North Carolina beat Nicholls State 99-49 on Monday night for its fourth straight win. But the Tar Heels squandered an opportunity to fine-tune their game ahead of Wednesday's matchup against Texas, prompting coach Roy Williams to say he didn't have his team ready to play.
''We weren't focused, we weren't ready to play and it's my fault to make sure the guys don't do that,'' Williams said.
Freshman James Michael McAdoo added a season-high 14 points off the bench for the Tar Heels (10-2), who still dominated the undersized and overmatched Colonels from the start. North Carolina finished with a 72-35 rebounding advantage, including 31 on the offensive glass that led to 36 second-chance points.
The 31 offensive boards were second-most in program history. The Tar Heels had 39 rebounds by halftime to match or exceed their total for six games this season, and their 72 for the game were tied for second in school history and the program's most since 1956.
Most everything else against Nicholls State (4-8) was forgettable.
''I thought we were going to come out with a little more fire than we did, just getting prepared for Texas,'' said sophomore Reggie Bullock, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for UNC. ''We just can't look ahead to other teams next time. We've just got to come out and take that opponent and play hard from the beginning.''
Williams delivered that message to his starters in the second half. While the Tar Heels led by 23 points, the coach pulled his five starters for nearly five minutes. When the quintet returned, they finally showed some spark by blocking four straight shots and getting out in transition effectively during a 16-1 run to make it 79-33 with 7 1/2 minutes left.
That flurry was just enough to keep Williams from scheduling what he described as a four-hour ''track practice'' for 7 a.m. Tuesday.
''I think everybody was even more hungry to get back in and prove Coach wrong,'' Strickland said. ''He said we weren't ready to play tonight. We knew that we were going to beat this team and we can't have that mindset. We've got to go out there like we're playing Texas or whatever.''
The Tar Heels are midway through a nine-game homestand that will keep them at the Smith Center through their first two Atlantic Coast Conference games in January. Playing in front of a flat crowd in a building with plenty of empty seats, the Tar Heels missed shot after shot to open the game, including plenty of in-close looks that rolled harmlessly off the rim.
But with Nicholls State's tallest starter at 6-foot-7, the Tar Heels' front line of Harrison Barnes (6-8), John Henson (6-11) and Tyler Zeller (7-0) had no trouble leading UNC's rebounding onslaught.
In fact, North Carolina had a 30-7 rebounding advantage in the first 12 1/2 minutes, including 18-0 on the offensive boards. North Carolina's first seven baskets were second-chance points, including a stickback from Bullock that capped a six-shot possession.
''I don't think we necessarily competed as hard as we needed to early for some of those rebounds,'' Colonels coach J.P. Piper said. ''There were times, however, when I felt like we put a body on a guy and had good position, and they were just superior.
''You look up, and you see our guy's hand at the rim or maybe barely above. Then you see their guy's elbow next to my guy's hand. Well, we're not getting those rebounds.''
Freshman P.J. Hairston added 13 points for UNC, while Henson and Zeller each pulled down 11 rebounds. Henson also had seven blocked shots.
While the Tar Heels warmed up to finish the game at 44 percent shooting, they made just 7 of 21 free throws in the first half and 21 of 41 for the game.
Bryan Hammond scored 15 to lead Nicholls State, which didn't manage a point for the first 5 1/2 minutes and shot just 31 percent. Nicholls State also missed 20 of 22 3-point tries.