Chapel Hill, N.C. - Tyler Zeller dominated the paint with a game-high 31 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 6 North Carolina (9-2) used a 13-2 scoring run in the final 3:50 of the first half to overcome a scrappy Appalachian State (4-6) team 97-82.
"It was kind of funny, I heard their coach one time, I ran down and got a layup and he just looked at him and goes, 'Told you he was going to do that,'" Zeller said. "It's something they all know we're trying to do."
Kendall Marshall dished out seven of his 13 assists before the intermission to spark a 10-0 first half edge in fast-break points to distance the Tar Heels from the Mountaineers early.
"They just run, they just run, and trust Kendall is going to find them," Appalachian State and former UNC standout Jason Capel said. "He trusts them to catch the ball, and they do. It's a beautiful marriage of talent, and having the guys to share things around and keep that talent as a cohesive unit. He [Marshall] does a heck of a job."
The Mountaineers did not let Capel's homecoming end in vain when Carolina was in control with a 75-46 advantage with 11:34 remaining in the contest. Appalachian State outscored the ho-hum Heels 36-22 the rest of the game.
It was final exam week. The Tar Heels only practiced twice during that period, which can definitely be attributed to their sloppiness especially in the second half.
After the intermission North Carolina turned the ball over five times, and allowed ASU to shoot 5-8 from downtown in the second half.
"In the end it's a "W" and it's Christmas time," UNC head coach Roy Williams said.
"I'm not going to be Scrooge by any means. We were really good for about the last four minutes of the first half and the first four or five minutes of the second half. And then we went brain dead there for a while. But you have to congratulate Jason and his club for continuing to play and doing a nice job defensively and making some shots."
Zeller had 20 points, but continued his onslaught in the second half, while John Henson, P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock combined for 25 points following the intermission.
Henson [17 points and six rebounds for the game] showed true grit after absorbing a hard foul from Nathan Healy at the 6:41 mark in the second half, as he proceeded to score six of Carolina's next eight points in a sequence that the Tar Heels and the Mountaineers traded baskets.
"It fired me up," Henson said. "I wasn't expecting that, and the best way to get someone back is score on them, and that's what I tried to do."
Marshall added that the Heels are not going to change anything. He is going to work from the inside out, and that starts with Zeller and Henson.