ETSU struggles in 78-55 loss to No. 20 UNC
East Tennessee State couldn’t overcome its slow start.
After No. 20 North Carolina forced the Buccaneers into the worst
first half in the history of its home arena, coach Murray Bartow
took whatever positives he could find.
ETSU managed just 12 points in the first 20 minutes of its 78-55
loss to the Tar Heels on Saturday night, setting a halftime record
for scoring futility at the nearly 27-year-old Smith Center.
That the Buccaneers outscored North Carolina 43-36 after
halftime gave Bartow something to be happy about.
”In these money games, you’ve got to try to take away
something,” Bartow said. ”Any small victory you can take away
from a game like this, you’ve got to take away. That was, to me,
the encouraging thing. We could have totally caved in and quit, but
I thought the guys had a lot of fight in the second half.”
Rashawn Rembert scored a career-high 18 points. Lester Wilson
added 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting with 11 rebounds for ETSU
(2-5), but freshman guard Mario Stramaglia had seven turnovers in
his first start. Rembert and Stramaglia filled in at the point for
injured starter Petey McClain.
”You’re really putting (Rembert and Stramaglia) in a tough
position, a position, really, to fail, but it’s the only thing we
can do,” Bartow said. ”I thought we left them hung out to dry
some, kind of left them on an island some.”
Leslie McDonald scored 14 points and freshman Brice Johnson
added 12 points for the Tar Heels (7-2), who shot 42.9 percent and
used a 34-2 run to put the Buccaneers out of this one early,
needing only about 15 minutes to go up by 30.
”I don’t like to say this, but we couldn’t maintain that type
of intensity in the second half,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
North Carolina forced 22 turnovers and finished with a
season-high 30 assists on its 31 field goals. Its only unassisted
basket came when McDonald blew an alley-oop dunk from P.J. Hairston
but pulled down his miss and laid it in.
”I’m a vet, so if they say something about it, they’re going to
have to deal with me,” McDonald said with a laugh.
During a stretch of roughly 14 minutes in the first half, the
Tar Heels held ETSU to 1-of-17 shooting.
Point guard Marcus Paige, who missed last week’s victory over
UAB with a jammed left shoulder, was back in the starting lineup
and had a season-high seven assists in 21 minutes.
And fellow freshman Joel James made his second straight
appearance as the fifth starter, though Williams indicated that
spot remains unsettled ”because I’m not sold on anybody.” James’
first start came during that 102-84 win over the Blazers in which
the Tar Heels weren’t terribly happy to be trading baskets with
them all night.
That wasn’t a problem at all in this one.
North Carolina reeled off 15 straight points and, later, 19 in a
row during the overwhelming run that gave it that 30-point
Among the high points: the Tar Heels hit 3-pointers on three
straight possessions – two by McDonald, one by Hairston – to get
things started. Johnson had highlight-reel dunks on back-to-back
trips down the court, including a pretty alley-oop from McDonald
that made it 41-9 with about 2 1/2 minutes left.
By then, the only thing in question was whether the
mistake-prone Buccaneers could scrape together enough offense to
get to 13 points – the previous mark for scoring futility in a half
in this building.
When Rembert tossed up an air ball just before the halftime
buzzer, which left it 42-12 at halftime – wiping N.C. State’s
dubious accomplishment in 2008 from the arena’s record book.
Hunter Harris finished with 11 points for ETSU.