Appalachian falls short in Capel’s return to UNC
Jason Capel won plenty of games as a player at North Carolina.
He found out firsthand just how tough it is to win there as a
The Appalachian State coach and former Tar Heels guard came up
short in his first coaching appearance on the visitors’ bench at
the Dean Smith Center when No. 5 North Carolina beat his
Mountaineers 97-82 on Saturday night.
Capel, who started for the Tar Heels from 1998-2002 under Bill
Guthridge and Matt Doherty, was plenty familiar with what they
wanted to do – but that only meant they had his plays figured out,
”It’s funny because everything they ran, I knew it was
coming,” Capel said with a laugh.
He received a warm ovation when his name was called during
pre-game introductions, but insisted that once the game started, he
tried to block out the surroundings and focus exclusively on the
”For me, personally, once the game starts, once the ball’s
tossed up, I’m in my zone,” Capel said. ”I can be anywhere. I’m
coaching my team, trying to get a win, but it was good to come
For North Carolina, Tyler Zeller flirted with a career scoring
high, finishing with 31 points and 10 rebounds. John Henson added
17 points for the Tar Heels (9-2), whose third straight win and
22nd in a row at the Smith Center wasn’t as lopsided as
They shot 54.5 percent, never trailed and led by 29 before
allowing Appalachian State to cut deeply into that big lead.
”We were really good for about the last four minutes of the
first half and the first 4-5 minutes of the second half,” coach
Roy Williams said. ”And then we went brain dead there for a
Omar Carter had 21 points and Mike Neal scored 15 for the
Mountaineers (4-6), who lost their fourth straight. They finished 9
of 20 from 3-point range and used a late scoring flurry to cut into
Andre Williamson and Tab Hamilton each finished with 11 points
for Appalachian State.
Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston both finished with 10 points,
while Harrison Barnes was held to nine – the first time he failed
to crack double figures this season. North Carolina was playing for
the first time in a week after being off for final exams, and
Williams said his team practiced only once all week because of the
scattered exam schedule.
Things will pick up in a hurry for the Tar Heels, who started a
nine-game homestand that includes three games in five days – they
play Nicholls State on Monday, followed by Texas on Wednesday – by
holding on to remain perfect against Appalachian State, which
didn’t get closer than 12 in the second half.
North Carolina pulled away from the Mountaineers, going up 20 on
Bullock’s 3-pointer with 16 1/2 minutes left and taking its largest
lead roughly five minutes later when Hairston’s free throw made it
The Tar Heels then held off Appalachian State’s frantic comeback
attempt to improve to 5-0 in the infrequent cross-state series,
though the previous four victories came by an average of 24 points.
They also have won 52 in a row against nonconference teams at home,
a streak that dates to 2005.
”Nothing can prepare you for that,” Capel said, referring to
both the Smith Center environment and the Tar Heels themselves.
”Nothing can prepare you for what you were going to see out there,
but we tried to simulate as much as possible. I’m proud because we
competed. We didn’t (only) play hard. We competed. We didn’t take a
step back when they punched us in the mouth. We kept coming
Kendall Marshall had 13 assists – his fifth game this season
with at least 10 – and North Carolina is 13-0 when he has at least
Zeller finished one point shy of his previous high of 32 points,
which came against Long Island last March in the Tar Heels’ NCAA
tournament opener. He had 20 points in the first half on 8-of-11
shooting and helped North Carolina build a big lead at the
The Mountaineers briefly made things interesting late in the
half, hitting three 3-pointers in a 2-minute span to pull within
34-30 with 4 1/2 minutes left.
The Tar Heels reeled off 12 straight points and took their
largest lead of the half on James Michael McAdoo’s steal and dunk
that put them up 46-30 in the final minute. Zeller’s layup with 2
minutes left made it 48-32 at halftime.
Capel ”told us at the beginning of the game that they were
going to make a couple runs, and we just had to keep our poise,”