Roy Williams

North Carolina wins only exhibition, looks forward to opener

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Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels will begin the season just outside the Top 10 and after their 81-54 exhibition win over D-II Shaw Friday night, they are looking forward to their season opener in less than two weeks.

The Tar Heels started off slow, beginning the game 3-of-13 from the floor and even trailing early in the second half, but a 23-0 run allowed UNC to roar back and take the lead and close out the 27-point victory.

“I thought it was a really good night for us,” Williams said in a statement. “I even liked it when they took the lead there because those are the kinds of things that we’re going to face all year, so I liked the way our guys responded.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well. I said that last year we were going to be a really good shooting team, and I think this is a team that’s going to be even better than that.”

Williams’ team is tasked this season with replacing four first-round NBA draft picks—Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, and Harrison Barnes—and made to do so with the help of four-man recruiting class.

One of those freshman, 6-10, 260-pound Joel James, helped UNC to a win Friday night with 13 points and seven rebounds. James was a top-75 recruit in the Class of 2012.

Many expect North Carolina to have a breakout star 2012-13, James Michael McAdoo, who played well with 16 points and eight rebounds.

The Tar Heels open their season Nov. 9 against Gardner-Webb.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: