CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Appalachian State coach Buzz Peterson was all smiles as he walked into the Dean Smith Center on Saturday, shaking hands with fans and greeting old friends from his college days in Chapel Hill.
It didn't take long for his former team to wipe the grin off his face.
Ed Cota had a career-high 14 assists and No. 1 North Carolina posted its biggest rebounding edge of the season in a 96-63 victory over the Mountaineers.
Peterson, an Asheville native, was a guard for the Tar Heels under Dean Smith from 1982-85.
But the Tar Heels gave no mercy to the second-year Mountaineers' coach Saturday, using a considerable size advantage to take a 16-2 lead in the first five minutes.
The Mountaineers trailed by as many as 36 points in the second half and never seriously challenged. Peterson tried to look at the bright side after the game.
"This was a wonderful experience for our players," said Peterson, a reserve on North Carolina's 1982 national championship team. "I felt this would be an experience they could look back on years down the road and say they played against North Carolina."
Tige Darner led Appalachian State (10-5) with 14 points.
But the Tar Heels finished with a 48-23 rebound advantage over the Mountaineers, who had won seven of their last nine games.
"I was very proud because our kids never quit fighting and hustling," Peterson said. "The biggest positive we can take from this game is how much our team hustled throughout the entire game. That was one of the best lessons I learned under Coach Smith and today I felt like we really kept fighting to the end."
Antawn Jamison scored 25 points and Vince Carter added 17 for the Tar Heels (18-1), who bounced back from an 89-83 overtime loss to Maryland on Wednesday with their 34th win in their last 36 games. North Carolina beat a non-conference opponent at home for the 48th straight time.
"You judge a person by how they come back from adversity," said North Carolina's Shammond Williams, who scored 12 points. "That was a difficult game but I hope it makes us better basketball players. We need to build on the things we did in that game and the things we didn't do. There's always room for improvement."
North Carolina's starting lineup was a total of 11 inches taller than Appalachian State's and it showed during the early run. The Tar Heels had a layup and three dunks during the spurt, the most spectacular basket coming on a driving one-handed slam by Carter with 16:45 left.
Darner hit a 3-pointer with 14:42 left to cut the lead to 16-5 but close-range baskets by Cota and Ademola Okulaja pushed the Tar Heels' lead to 15. Ian Adams made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 12:43 left but Jamison hit a turnaround jump hook and Michael Brooker scored on a driving layup to give North Carolina a 24-8 lead.
The Tar Heels got sloppy as the half wore on, committing three straight turnovers during one stretch. Another 3-pointer by Darner with 6:25 remaining trimmed the lead to 35-27, but a turnaround jumper by Jamison, a dunk by reserve Brian Bersticker and a 3-pointer by Carter restored the 15-point lead.
A two-handed reverse dunk by Carter off an alley-oop pass from Cota highlighted the second-half run. The Tar Heels led by as many as 34 points before coach Bill Guthridge pulled the starters with 5:33 left in the game.
Guthridge has been questioned this season for primarily playing the starters and one reserve. But Carolina's reserves played heavy minutes Saturday.
"We had three teams going in," Guthridge said. "In the first half, the starters played the first third and we split up the starters for the other two-thirds. I felt they've worked hard in practice and deserved the opportunity."
Okulaja led the reserves with 11 points, while backup center Brendan Haywood added eight.
APPALACHIAN STATE (63) -- M.Phillips 3-9 0-0 6, Adderley 0-4 0-0 0, Livingston 3-8 0-2 6, Darner 5-9 1-5 14, Patterson 4-12 0-0 8, Grover 0-2 0-0 0, McMahon 1-1 1-2 4, Tyler 3-7 0-1 6, Adams 5-8 0-0 13, Crosston 1-3 0-0 3, McFadden 1-2 0-0 3, K.Phillips 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-66 2-10 63.
NORTH CAROLINA (96) -- Carter 7-7 2-3 17, Jamison 11-15 3-4 25, Ndiaye 1-7 2-6 4, Sh.Williams 5-9 0-0 12, Cota 4-4 0-0 8, Haywood 2-3 4-7 8, Okulaja 5-5 0-0 11, Brooker 1-3 0-0 2, Newby 1-1 0-0 3, Owens 2-3 0-0 4, Bersticker 1-4 0-0 2, Frederick 0-1 0-2 0, Sc.Williams 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 40-63 11-22 96.
Halftime -- North Carolina 46-30.
3-Point goals -- Appalachian State 9-15 (Darner 3-3, Adams 3-4, McMahon 1-1, Crosston 1-1, McFadden 1-1, M.Phillips 0-1, Patterson 0-1, K. Phillips 0-1, Adderley 0-2), North Carolina 5-10 (Sh.Williams 2-5, Carter 1-1, Okulaja 1-1, Newby 1-1, Brooker 0-2). Fouled out -- None. Rebounds -- Appalachian State 23 (M.Phillips 5), North Carolina 48 (Jamison 9). Assists -- Appalachian State 17 (Darner, Adams 4), North Carolina 32 (Cota 14). Total fouls -- Appalachian State 16, North Carolina 13. A -- 21,572.
S.C. State -- 78
Coppin State -- 76
BALTIMORE -- Roderick "Moo Moo" Blakney scored 28 points and Raheem Waller got the go-ahead basket on an improbable shot with 63 seconds left as South Carolina State defeated Coppin State in a battle for first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
South Carolina State (7-5, 6-0) trailed by nine with 11 minutes left before rallying for its first win in 12 games at the Coppin Center.
Tyler Brown had 27 points for the Bulldogs, whose sixth straight victory left them the only unbeaten team in the league.
With the score 76-76, Waller and Coppin State center Kareem Lewis battled for the rebound of a South Carolina State miss. Waller wrestled the ball away with his back to the basket, tossed it over his head and scored while being fouled.
He missed the free throw, but Coppin State couldn't get even. Fred Warrick was off the mark on a 3-pointer, and Antoine Brockington's runner at the buzzer was off to the left.
Brockington scored 22 for the Eagles (7-7, 5-1), whose four-game winning streak came to an end. Coppin State is seeking its sixth straight regular-season MEAC title.
It was only the second loss in the last 54 home games for the Eagles.