PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Kennedy Meeks scored 18 points and tied a career high with 13 rebounds, Marcus Paige added 16 points and No. 5 North Carolina built a big early lead and beat No. 18 Florida 75-64 in the fifth-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday night.
Justin Jackson had 12 points for the Tar Heels (5-1), who scored the first 12 points. J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson added 10 apiece for North Carolina.
Kasey Hill led all scorers with 20 points and Michael Frazier II added 17 for the Gators (3-3), who struggled again offensively. Florida shot 33 percent from the field, 22 percent from 3-point range and still hasn’t reached the 70-point mark in any game this season.
The third loss matches the Gators’ total for all of last season, when they went 36-3 and made the Final Four.
North Carolina made seven straight shots in the early going, Florida started off by missing its first 10 and the game looked as if it was going to be a complete runaway.
By the time Florida made a shot, North Carolina had a 12-0 lead and those wearing the lighter shade of blue inside the sold-out arena were loud and delighted. Kennedy Meeks’ basket midway through the half to make it 20-4, and North Carolina wound up taking that 16-point cushion into halftime with a 39-23 lead.
Florida finally got some things to work after halftime.
A 9-2 run capped by Jon Horford’s layup got Florida to 45-37 early in the second half, and the Gators were down just 62-52 after Frazier made a 3-pointer followed by a free throw from Hill with 4:29 remaining.
But Paige curled around a screen on the ensuing Carolina possession to make a 3-pointer — his first of the night, pushing the lead to 13 and extending his streak of making at least one shot from beyond the arc to 19 straight games.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are now 4-2 against Florida. Friday’s matchup was the first meeting between the programs since the 2000 Final Four, when Florida beat North Carolina 71-59. … Roy Williams improved to 3-1 against the Gators, each previous matchup coming when he was at Kansas.
Florida: It’s Florida’s first 3-3 start since 1996-97, when the Gators finished with a 13-17 record and went 5-11 in the SEC. … The Gators’ losses have been against Miami, Georgetown and now the Tar Heels, teams with a combined 16-3 record. … Think these Florida offensive struggles are bad? Ha. The Gators lost to North Carolina by scores of 59-14 and 42-6 in the 1920s.
North Carolina: Home against Iowa on Wednesday night.
Florida: At Kansas, Dec. 5.
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