CHAPEL HILL--- North Carolina wasn't putting the ball in the basket with the regularity its accustomed to Sunday evening in its non-conference tilt with Florida Atlantic, but the Tar Heels held the Owls to 27.9 percent shooting from the floor in an 80-56 triumph in the Smith Center.
The Tar Heels (2-0) got 19 points and 11 rebounds from James Michael McAdoo, his second straight double-double to start the year, and had four players in double figures, including Reggie Bullock (16 points), Brice Johnson (12 points) and Joel James (11 points).
"I think we got a heck of a lot better as a team today," said head coach Roy Williams. "I do think we got better as a team. I think we were better defensively. I do believe we got better, but we need to get better because things start really getting drastically higher competition-wise when we get rolling now."
FAU, coached by former George Washington and St. John's skipper Mike Jarvis, hung with the Tar Heels through an ugly first half. The Owls actually tied the game at 19-19 eleven minutes in following a three-pointer by Greg Gantt.
UNC shot a dismal 34.2 percent (13 of 38) from the floor over the first 20 minutes of action, including 2 of 7 from three-point land, which doesn't even include a dreadful 4 of 14 clip from the free throw line.
In fact, UNC senior guard Dexter Strickland was seen shooting free throws on the floor well after the game had ended.
"We shot 200 free throws in a four-day period last week," Williams said. "The lowest (percentage) on our team was 63 percent. 16 guys, 14 of them were above 77 percent. You have to make them. Dexter is a really good free throw shooter, and he was two-for-six. It's just something where we have to get better."
But fortunately for Carolina, despite their shooting woes, they were solid defensively throughout, holding FAU to 27.9 percent shooting on the afternoon (17 of 61).
Throughout the game the Owls struggled to get settled into its set offense, and with the Tar Heels forcing seven steals, they were constantly disrupting them and getting out in transition.
But still, even despite Carolina's defensive dominance, it was still a ten-point game at 48-38 with 14:18 to play before the Tar Heels embarked on a decisive 24-10 run to put the game out of reach.
"To shoot 34 percent in the first half and then shoot 55 percent in the second half, I told those last five guys who were oh-for-three in the last minute they were killing our field goal percentage," Williams joked. "I did lose it out there a couple times out there today because of just silly mistakes, but the two guys I was yelling at, it was their second college game."
"The reason why we came (to UNC) and the reason why we played is to see how much work we have to do," said FAU's Jarvis. "They're not a great North Carolina team. Not yet. They're good and they're still North Carolina. They have a lot more weapons than we do."
With all of Carolina's shooting problems there was a bright spot, as Bullock made six of seven shots from the floor, including three of four attempts from behind the arc.
"It starts with my teammates, just getting me open," Bullock said. "If I'm open, I'm going to shoot the ball. I think people are still growing into their roles, but as we keep practicing, I believe those wrinkles will just come out."
"I think he (Bullock) did a great job," added McAdoo, who was eight-of-17 from the floor. "He had a phenomenal game. I think that just came with him having that confidence and really just going out there and relying on us. I think we set him great screens. I feel like the low post guys really helped open it up for him."
With the two early wins under its belt, Carolina now prepares to travel to the West Coast for a late Friday evening encounter at Long Beach State, which promises to be a difficult matchup, before heading farther west to Hawaii for the EA Sports Maui Invitational, which begins a week from Monday.
It figures to be a challenging round of contests that will show this team where it's at and where it must get better to again be a threat in the Atlantic Coast Conference this winter.
"I hope to learn that we're good," said Coach Williams about the trip. "The toughness, we're getting better at that. We have to be more attention to the detail. We have to be more consistent moving the ball and moving without the ball. The number one thing is just to get smoother offensively."