CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Brice Johnson scored 12 points to help No. 6 North Carolina beat North Carolina Central 76-60 on Friday night in the opener for both teams.
Kennedy Meeks and J.P. Tokoto each added 10 for the Tar Heels (1-0), who scored the first 11 points and led by double figures much of the night. North Carolina shot 44 percent, though preseason Associated Press All-American Marcus Paige managed just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting.
UNC won its 10th season opener in a row.
Anthony McDonald scored 16 points to lead the Eagles (0-1), who entered with a reshaped roster following a 28-win season that included a trip to the NCAA tournament.
The Eagles earned their first win against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent last year against unranked North Carolina State, but the preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference favorite couldn’t follow with another stunner and fell to 1-14 against ACC teams.
It wasn’t the sharpest of performance for the Tar Heels, who never landed a finishing blow on the Eagles and basically played even after that 11-0 opening burst. But they showed flashes of the attributes that have made them a Final Four contender, primarily the replenished perimeter depth that gives them a lot of lineup versatility.
Coach Roy Williams started 6-foot-8 freshman Justin Jackson as expected, but in a surprise move fellow freshman Theo Pinson started ahead of Tokoto.
The Tar Heels showed a bit more fullcourt pressure and trapping defense in this one as they tried to speed up the tempo. They also had plenty of offensive balance with 10 players scoring, though they struggled from outside by going just 2 for 11 from behind the arc.
N.C. Central got no closer than six in the first half and trailed 28-19 at half. They never got closer after the break and finished the game shooting 32 percent.
N.C. Central: The Eagles lost three starters and seven letter winners from last year while bringing in eight newcomers, including three transfers who sat out last season. … Top returning scorer Jordan Parks (10.1 points) managed seven while battling foul trouble.
North Carolina: The win marked the 1,000th for coach Roy Williams as an assistant or head coach. … UNC struggled at the line last year at 63 percent and made 20 of 30 free throws (67 percent) Friday. … Sophomore point guard Stilman White played late in this one, returning to the court after missing two seasons while on a Mormon mission in Utah.
N.C. Central hosts College of Faith on Tuesday.
North Carolina hosts Robert Morris on Sunday as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis event.
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