CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) No. 2 North Carolina kept taking the ball from Boston College. Marcus Paige finally saw it go through the net.
The Tar Heels won their 12th straight game, forcing a season-best 23 turnovers in an 89-62 victory over the Eagles on Saturday.
Paige had 12 points in his highest-scoring game in three weeks, hitting three 3-pointers after making just one in his previous four games. After swishing the first 3 he tried, he shot a look of relief toward the Smith Center roof.
“I want you to go to the gym, miss 20-some in a row, then make one and have the whole arena cheer for you, just so you know how it feels,” Paige said with a laugh. “I’ve never missed that many shots in a row in my life, so just to finally get people (cheering), it was very relieving.”
Brice Johnson had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Joel Berry II added 13 points for the Tar Heels (19-2, 8-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). After shaking off a slow start, the ACC’s leaders routed the league’s last-place team by turning those takeaways into 30 points.
Eli Carter had 19 points to lead the Eagles (7-14, 0-7), who were without guards Jerome Robinson (wrist injury) and Darryl Hicks (concussion). They shot 44 percent and hit 10 3-pointers but couldn’t overcome that season-worst turnover total while losing both their eighth straight overall and eighth in a row in the series.
“I thought defensively, we played hard, just offensively, we turned the ball over,” coach Jim Christian said. “We’re really short-handed. … A lot of them were on-ball turnovers, ballhandling turnovers. That was the difference in the game, obviously.”
The Tar Heels took care of the easy part of their schedule, and now things are about to get tougher, starting with Monday’s trip to No. 16 Louisville. After facing no team ranked in the AP Top 25 through their first eight ACC games, the Tar Heels will have six against teams currently ranked during the month of February.
For Paige, a few shots finally started to fall. He finished 4 of 9 and was 3 of 8 from 3-point range, a drastic improvement over his last few games. He was 5 of 35 from the field and 1 of 22 from 3-point range during the four games that followed his 30-point outburst at Florida State on Jan. 4.
North Carolina took control of this one late in the first half, reeling off 15 straight points to build a comfortable lead. Johnson hit a jumper from the key one possession before he capped the run with two free throws that made it 39-23 with 3:45 left. Berry then pushed the lead into the 20s for the first time with his three-point play made it 50-30 with 15:03 to play.
A BIG GREEN ROOM?
Most of North Carolina’s students wore neon-green T-shirts and ski caps as part of the school’s recycling campaign, with the shirts made from recycled plastic bottles. It made for an odd juxtaposition with Tar Heels coach Roy Williams’ criticism a day earlier of ESPN’s “frickin’ green room” and how the network touts NBA prospects playing in college games.
Boston College: The Eagles started what might be the toughest three-game conference road swing in the country. After this one, they go to No. 11 Virginia and No. 16 Louisville. Those three have an average rank of No. 6 in Ken Pomeroy’s advanced stat rankings.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels missed their first eight free throws and nine of their first 10. … Kennedy Meeks did not start because he was late to the team’s shoot-around. Isaiah Hicks started in his place, while Meeks finished with eight points in 15 minutes.
Boston College: visits No. 11 Virginia on Wednesday night.
North Carolina: visits No. 16 Louisville on Monday night.
AP college basketball site: http://collegebasketball.ap.org