No. 4 North Carolina finished off their demolition of the Maui Invitational field with a 71-56 win over No. 16 Wisconsin, a win that never truly felt like it was in doubt.
The Tar Heels jumped out to an 8-0 lead as they held the Badgers scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game. They stretched a 37-29 halftime lead to 20 points early in the second half. They went 27 minutes before they let the Badgers, who entered the night as one of the top five teams in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, get to the offensive glass.
Joel Berry II led the way with 22 points for the Tar Heels, a day after he put 24 points on Jawun Evans and Oklahoma State. Kennedy Meeks added 15 points and a career-high 16 boards and Isaiah Hicks added 14 points.
UNC’s work on the defensive glass was impressive, as was their work on Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. The two Badger stars finished 4-for-24 from the floor and 1-for-12 from three.
The Tar Heels have been as impressive as any team in college basketball this season. The only time they were really tested came against Hawai’i in what was a true road game in UNC’s first game in a time zone six hours away from their campus. They’re 7-0 on the season, they haven’t won a game by less than 15 points and Berry is playing like he’s one of, if not the best point guard in the country.
The start couldn’t be more promising.
The question now is whether or not they’ve actually beaten a team that’s any good. Wisconsin has not availed themselves all that well this season, losing by 12 to Creighton and 15 to the Tar Heels while struggling to put away Tennessee and Georgetown. Wisconsin looks great on paper, but that hasn’t exactly translated onto the floor yet.
But that’s picking nits right now.
Because it’s safe to say that, at this point, the Tar Heels look like they will be Duke’s biggest challenger in the ACC.
And that is always a good thing for college hoops.