Tar Heels surge past Harvard in second half

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              North Carolina's Nassir Little (5) grabs the ball while Kenny Williams falls and tangles with Luke Maye (32) during a play against Harvard's Mason Forbes and Henry Welsh (44) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina got ready for Atlantic Coast Conference play with a lackluster performance against Harvard.

Luke Maye scored 14 points to help the 15th-ranked Tar Heels beat the Crimson 77-57 on Wednesday night.

Cameron Johnson and Coby White added 13 points apiece in North Carolina’s final nonconference game of the regular season.

“This stuff is over now,” coach Roy Williams said. “It’s big-time basketball in front of us now. We’ve got to play better.”

North Carolina struggled in many of the same areas it has throughout the season, taking bad shots, making careless turnovers, failing to secure rebounds and allowing too many open 3-pointers.

Williams tried his best to send a message, removing Maye, White, Garrison Brooks and Seventh Woods from the game for separate transgressions along those lines during the second half.

“Of course, we want to be playing better,” North Carolina guard Kenny Williams said. “We’re still having the lapses that we were having in November, and it’s January. We’ve got to fix that, and we’ve got to fix it quick because the ACC is a gauntlet. Every game is tough.”

The Tar Heels led 44-39 early in the second half before pulling away with a 22-3 run over the next 10 minutes.

Harvard missed 11 consecutive shots from the floor as North Carolina extended its lead to 66-42 with 6:20 to play.

Nassir Little scored 12 points and Kenny Williams had 11 for the Tar Heels, who shot 42 percent.

Robert Baker scored 10 points for Harvard (6-6), which had 22 turnovers.

North Carolina led 41-31 at halftime after a 15-3 spurt late in the period. Johnson sparked the run with a layup and two 3-pointers.

BIG PICTURE

Harvard: The Crimson’s half-court defense and rebounding were solid, but the team’s season-long turnover woes persisted. Harvard had turnovers on eight of 13 possessions as the Tar Heels seized control in the first half, and the Crimson finished the period with more turnovers (12) than field goals (10). “Our turnovers I thought really killed us,” coach Tommy Amaker said.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels made just 6 of 21 3-point attempts. But they overcame their shaky shooting by beating Harvard down the court, even after made baskets by the Crimson.

AMAKER RETURNS

Amaker returned to the Smith Center nearly 33 years after he played in the first game in the building. Back then, he played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, and top-ranked North Carolina beat No. 3 Duke 95-92. Amaker also worked at Duke as an assistant coach.

“I’ve been happier back in the area, but it’s wonderful to be back, for sure,” he said.

INJURIES

North Carolina backup post player Sterling Manley sat out with soreness in his left knee. Manley averaged 4.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in the Tar Heels’ first 12 games. Roy Williams said Manley is considered day to day until the Tar Heels get more information.

Reigning Ivy League player of the year Seth Towns and guard Bryce Aiken, who averaged 14.1 points per game last season, remained out for Harvard. Neither has played this season.

UP NEXT

Harvard gets a 10-day break before playing at Dartmouth on Jan. 12 in its Ivy League opener.

North Carolina plays at Pittsburgh on Saturday at noon in a return game for Johnson, who spent three seasons with the Panthers before departing in 2017 as a graduate transfer.