GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Kennedy Meeks scored 18 points to help No. 24 North Carolina beat UNC Greensboro 79-56 on Tuesday night.
The Tar Heels (7-3) regrouped from a weekend loss at top-ranked Kentucky with an easy win against an instate opponent. They shot 49 percent and had a 20-point lead midway through the first half, cruising in the same arena where they’ll play in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in March.
Preseason Associated Press All-American Marcus Paige struggled with his shot again for the Tar Heels, finishing with five points on 1-for-8 shooting. He came in shooting just 37 percent on the season.
Kayel Locke scored 17 points for the Spartans (4-7), coached by former Tar Heels player Wes Miller. UNCG got off to a terrible start and never recovered, trailing by 27 points in the first half and 40-19 at the break before falling to 2-52 all-time against ACC opponents.
The Tar Heels were coming off the 84-70 loss to the Wildcats, a game that saw Kentucky shoot 56 percent — it was the first opponent to shoot 40 percent against UNC — while repeatedly getting to the line and converting 18 UNC turnovers into 24 points.
The Tar Heels had a much easier time in a game against a Southern Conference opponent that has been shorthanded due to a series of injuries all season. With their size advantage they dominated the glass by a 51-26 margin and scored 16 second-chance points to go with 15 points off turnovers.
Meeks finished 8 for 9 from the field, while big men Joel James and Isaiah Hicks provided some production off the bench. James, a junior, tied his career high with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting while Hicks added eight points and six boards.
Preseason all-Southern Conference pick Tevon Saddler finished with six points on 3-for-8 shooting for the Spartans. He had scored 24 points in each of his last two games, but picked up a charge for his fourth foul in the first minute of the second half and had fouled out by the 11:15 mark.
UNCG started 3 for 23 from the field and 0 for 9 from 3-point range before finishing the game at 36 percent overall and 5 for 24 (21 percent) behind the arc.
North Carolina: UNC won last year’s meeting 81-50 in Chapel Hill. … Paige didn’t manage his first basket until hitting a 3-pointer around the 9:45 mark of the second half after an 0-for-6 start. … The Tar Heels shot 3-for-14 from 3-point range.
UNCG: Sophomore Diante Baldwin, who returned last week from a preseason knee injury that required surgery, scored a career-high 13 points. … The program’s only wins against ACC teams have come against Virginia Tech last year and Georgia Tech in 2007. … Miller and assistant coach Jackie Manuel were on UNC’s 2005 NCAA championship team.
UNCG hosts Elon on Saturday.
North Carolina plays No. 12 Ohio State in Chicago on Dec. 20.
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