HARTFORD, Conn. -- It took North Carolina a while to get going. When it finally did, it really got going.
The top-ranked Tar Heels looked emotionless in the first half then pulled away to an 88-52 victory over Navy on Thursday in the opening round of the East Regional.
The game had some history to it as North Carolina won its first NCAA tournament game without Dean Smith on the bench in 41 years.
"The new things to me as a head coach were my first practice, my first exhibition game and my first regular-season game," said Bill Guthridge, Smith's assistant for 30 years and his successor. "I don't even think about it until you guys bring it up."
It was All-America Antawn Jamison who brought up the Tar Heels' energy level after they managed just a 38-28 halftime lead.
"In the second half we got it going, we had to get the emotion going," said Jamison who had 17 points and 14 rebounds. "It's tougher than you think going in to play the No. 16 seed because you're supposed to win."
Last year, North Carolina trailed 16th-seeded Fairfield by seven points before rallying for an 82-74 victory and the players said that game would make them more focused for the game against Navy (19-11).
"I always say that your first game in the NCAA tournament, especially after winning the ACC tournament is tough because you are emotionally drained," Guthridge said. "But I want to give Navy credit for the way they played the game."
That would be physical, especially for Jamison who seemed to be bumped or hit before, during and after each of his 15 shots.
"Coming into the game I knew they would play physical," Jamison said. "They were out to do the same thing we were and they just continued to play and never gave up."
North Carolina (31-3) outplayed the smaller Midshipmen in almost every facet of the game, holding them to 27 percent shooting and outrebounding them 57-33.
"They are a terrific basketball team and you would expect a No. 1 seed to do what they did," Navy coach Don DeVoe said. "They never got away from their game plan and it became a difficult chore for us. We just couldn't get the ball in the basket and that was my biggest concern coming in."
North Carolina will play eighth-seeded North Carolina Charlotte, which beat ninth-seeded Illinois-Chicago 77-62, on Saturday in the second round. It will be the first meeting ever between the schools from the same state.
North Carolina led by 10 points after a sloppy first half that saw it commit 12 turnovers, one below their season average for a game. Things were a lot different in the second half as the Tar Heels took care of the ball and scored on almost every possession in a 19-2 run that gave them a 70-43 lead with 5:53 to play. The lead reached 86-49 with 29 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Michael Brooker.
"At first we were rushing some plays and made some bad passes," North Carolina's Vince Carter said. "We were going for the jugular so to speak. I think we were a little excited at first but once we settled down we were able to make some things happen."
Shammond Williams added 15 points for the Tar Heels, Carter had 14 and Makhtar Ndiaye 12.
Hassan Booker led Navy with 10 points.
"They're good and they just wore us down," Booker said. "They come at you with waves of good players. Jamison does his thing then you turn around and there's a guy like Carter coming at you. They just wear you down."
The last time North Carolina played an NCAA tournament game without Smith on the bench was 1959 under Frank McGuire when it lost to Navy in the first round. The Tar Heels' last victory in the NCAA tournament without college basketball's career leader in victories was over Kansas in triple overtime in the 1957 national championship game.
Guthridge was asked if this game was any different from the ones he sat next to Smith in.
"Like I said, I really don't think about it anymore until you guys bring it up," he said.
© 2017. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us