CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Deon Thompson scored 16 of his 20 points after halftime to help No. 6 North Carolina hold off Valparaiso 88-77 on Sunday.
Ed Davis added a career-high 16 points for the Tar Heels (3-0), who didn’t look sharp yet still earned their third straight double-digit victory to open the season. North Carolina led just 38-31 at halftime, but scored on 12 of 13 possessions to build a 24-point lead midway through the second half.
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Yet the defending national champions had plenty of trouble putting away the Crusaders (0-2), who got as close as 84-75 on a 3-pointer from Brandon McPherson with 1:47 left.
North Carolina shot 56 percent for the game, but Valparaiso kept pace at 53 percent in the second half — including a 7-for-10 effort from 3-point range.
Brandon Wood scored a career-best 30 points and hit six of Valparaiso’s 12 3-pointers, while McPherson finished with 20 points.
It was a performance that had to frustrate coach Roy Williams, particularly with his team preparing to open a tough stretch of the schedule that could include five games against ranked opponents. It begins with Thursday’s game against No. 16 Ohio State in New York in the 2K Sports Classic, and includes a home game against No. 2 Michigan State in a rematch of last year’s national championship game and a trip to No. 4 Kentucky.
North Carolina didn’t show a huge sense of urgency, while Homer Drew’s Valparaiso team wouldn’t quit even as the Tar Heels ran out to a 67-43 lead with 11:55 to play. The Tar Heels committed 14 turnovers despite playing against a zone defense most of the game.
Larry Drew II had 13 points and six assists for the Tar Heels, while Tyler Zeller added 12 points off the bench.