Chapel Hill, N.C. - Reggie Bullock put No. 6 North Carolina (8-2) on top for good at the 11:06 mark in the second half when he drained a three-pointer, as the Tar Heels overcame a five-point halftime deficit to defeat Long Beach State 84-78.
"As a shooter I was just talking to P.J. [Hairston] at halftime I was like, 'We're going to miss some, and we're going to make a lot, so just come out and keep shooting,'" Bullock said. "I just kept my confidence in the second half, and when my teammates found me I just knocked down big shots."
Bullock finished with 15 points off the bench, including 11 in the second half. John Henson led the way with a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Harrison Barnes added 20 points, and Tyler Zeller chipped in 17 points. Zeller eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier for his career with 18:27 to go in the first half.
The Kinston sophomore gave Carolina an eight-point advantage with a two-point jump-shot at the 10:31 mark in the first half before the lid was blown off by the 49ers (4-5).
Casper Ware scored 21-first-half points, and Larry Anderson chimed in with seven straight points in the final 1:11 before halftime.
"Ware was a load for us in the first half," UNC head coach
Roy Williams said. "I thought we were a little better defensively in the second half."
The Heels held Ware to eight points in the second half. North Carolina improved its first half defensive field goal percentage from 51.2-percent to 42.9-percent in the second half.
"We're just trying to worry about being sound defensively," Barnes said. "I think that's our biggest problem. At the end of the first half we were I think up five, and then went down five. We had so many mental breakdowns defensively. Coach [Williams] got on us at half, and we turned it around."
The second half metamorphosis can also be attributed to Kendall Marshall's play at the point. Marshall's only points of the game came from a layup that gave Carolina a 54-53 advantage with 14:11 left to play.
The sophomore from Dumfries, VA managed to control the game, as he dished out 16 assists (12 in the second half) to two first-half turnovers.
"The couple of shots I took early on they felt great coming off, and obviously they missed," Marshall said. "At that point you just want to try to find out what's best for the team, and then when you have Z shooting seven for nine from the field, John 12 for 17, H eight for 16, you want to try to get them the ball as much as possible."
Like Marshall, Henson elevated his play in the second half.
He continued his stellar offensive performance, but improved dramatically on the boards, as he pulled down seven rebounds in the second half (10 for the game). Henson was also a stalwart on the defensive end, blocking three shots in the final 2:25 of regulation.
"He [Henson] got involved defensively," Williams said. "He blocked some shots that were huge for us. John is just getting better and better."
Barnes attributed North Carolina's struggles in the first half to lack of effort and concentration, but the Tar Heels set their jaw at the intermission to outscore Long Beach State 44-33 in the second half.