LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) North Carolina had a hard time shaking pesky Chaminade early. Once the Tar Heels turned into a bully, they were able to run away from the Silverswords.
Isaiah Hicks scored 22 points, Kennedy Meeks had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 4 North Carolina overpowered host Chaminade 104-61 Monday night in the Maui Invitational.
“We’re just too big for them,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said.
North Carolina (5-0) needed a little time to gain some separation from the Division II Silverswords, doing so midway through the first half by pounding the ball inside.
The Tar Heels outscored Chaminade 46-8 in the paint and had 26 second-chance points on 17 offensive rebounds to earn a spot in the semifinals against Oklahoma State on Tuesday.
Tony Bradley added 14 points and North Carolina shot 57 percent from the floor. Meeks and Hicks, both seniors, scored 20 points in the same game for the first time.
“We knew they were going to compete,” said Meeks, who hit all seven of his shots from the floor. “I know through watching them through the years and seen them knock off teams in this tournament. We definitely took advantage of the things we should have, getting the ball inside and hitting shots.”
Chaminade (2-1) shot well early to hang with the Tar Heels, but had little chance once they picked up the defensive pressure and got the ball inside on offense. The Silverswords went 10 of 28 from 3-point range but were outrebounded 52-23.
Rohndell Goodwin led Chaminade with 18 points, and Kiran Shastri added 13.
“It was pretty obvious to everybody that size and strength was the difference in this game,” Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird said. “They had (17) offensive rebounds and we had 23 total. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.”
Chaminade has a team filled with upperclassmen and has had a penchant for pulling off upsets. The Silverswords helped start the Maui Invitational with their shocker over top-ranked Virginia in 1982 and have knocked off big-name programs at this tournament through the years, most recently Texas in 2012.
North Carolina was not a favorable matchup for them.
The Tar Heels are long, athletic and considered national-title contenders even with forwards Luke Maye and Theo Pinson out with injuries.
The Silverswords’ only shot at another upset would be to shoot the lights out. They did early, making 12 of their first 21 field goal attempts to stay within 28-24 midway through the first half.
But then North Carolina’s size inside began to wear Chaminade down.
Behind the 6-foot-10 Meeks and the 6-9 Hicks, the Tar Heels started to stretch the lead. Meeks had 14 points by halftime, Hicks 13 and they combined to hit 11 of 13 shots to help North Carolina build a 50-34 advantage.
The Tar Heels opened the second half with an 11-4 run and never looked back.
“We felt like we could play them with our guards, but what can you do with three 6-11 guys?” Goodwin said. “It’s only so much we can do.”
After a slow start, the Tar Heels did what they were supposed to against an overmatched opponent. They’ll need a better start against Oklahoma State’s pressure defense in the semifinals.
Chaminade again showed it can hang with the big boys, at least for stretches.
North Carolina faces Oklahoma State in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Chaminade meets UConn in the second round.