CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina keeps sharing the ball and putting up big numbers, proving the fifth-ranked Tar Heels still have plenty of offensive punch despite losing a lot of production from last year.
Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams is more focused on getting more consistency from his team on the defensive end, and maybe a little more attention to detail, too.
Joel Berry II scored 23 points and UNC shot 53 percent to beat Long Beach State 93-67 on Tuesday night for a third straight lopsided win to open the season.
Kennedy Meeks added 15 points for the Tar Heels (3-0), who scored the game’s first 14 points and led by 23 points by halftime. That dominating start was enough to erase any doubt about the outcome, though Williams was aggravated enough at one sloppy second-half stretch that he angrily punched a clipboard to the court during a timeout.
“That first 10 minutes of the second half … that was about as bad offensively as I’ve seen us in 31 practices and three games and one exhibition,” Williams said, adding he also wants more from his team defensively.
Still, that stretch was little more than a blip, the kind of moment that will give Williams something to focus on in coming practices. The Tar Heels – who shot 59 percent in the opening half – never let the 49ers closer than 16 after halftime.
Gabe Levin scored 17 points for Long Beach State (1-2), who never recovered from an awful start that included making 8 of 31 shots (26 percent) in the first half. The 49ers finished at 36 percent and missed 20 of 26 3-pointers.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to come out here and play a little better early,” Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said.
Long Beach State: This game came roughly 48 hours after a loss at Wichita State as part of a demanding opening stretch that includes a stop at No. 12 Louisville on Thursday as well as visits to UCLA, Washington and Kansas before the end of November. So far, at least, Long Beach State is struggling to keep up, losing the past two games by a combined 63 points.
“This game will help us get better,” Monson said. “Hopefully Thursday will too.”
UNC: Williams’ angst aside, the Tar Heels’ offense has gotten off to a quick start. They had 20 assists on 32 baskets after assisting on 72 percent of their made shots through the first two games. They have also scored at least 93 points in all three games – so far, so good for an offense with new people inheriting key roles from last year’s NCAA finalist.
UNC’s three wins have come by an average of nearly 29 points per game, part of the reason the Tar Heels climbed one spot in this week’s AP Top 25 poll.
Berry is off to a fast start in his development as UNC’s No. 1 threat. He matched his career-high scoring total set in the opening win against Tulane to go with six rebounds, four assists and one turnover in 21 minutes.
The junior is shooting 60 percent from the floor so far this season.
“I’m just taking open shots,” Berry said. “I’m not trying to force anything, not trying to play outside of my game and trying to do what I have to do to help this team.”
THEY SAID IT
“A lot of curse words, just telling us to get our stuff together because we were playing bad.” – Meeks on Williams’ angry timeout message.
Long Beach State: The 49ers continue their nationwide trek at No. 12 Louisville.
UNC: The Tar Heels head west for an extended trip, first to play Hawaii on Friday before beginning play in the Maui Invitational over the Thanksgiving holiday.
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