North Carolina kicked off the Maui Invitational against Mississippi State looking to build on their 3-0 start to the season. UNC has won the Maui Invitational three times and twice went on to win the national championship.
Roy Williams once again went with Desmond Hubert to start the game over freshman Joel James and Brice Johnson. Hubert started strong in this one with four quick points, his first points of the year, he also blocked two shots in the first half and looked much more confident on both ends of the floor.
It was all Carolina early they built a huge lead going on two runs of 9-0 and a 8-0 run in the first ten minutes of the game. UNC started hot from downtown with Reggie Bullock knocking down three of his first four attempts from beyond the arc. Dexter Strickland also hit his first three since the February 23, 2011.
Keeping an eye on the rotation, the first substitutions of the game were Joel James for Hubert and Leslie McDonald for Bullock, during the first three games of the season it was PJ Hairston who came off the bench first amongst the perimeter players. Luke Davis saw time in the first half after sitting for most of the game against Long Beach State.
McDonald seemed to move better on the floor and he attacked the basket off the dribble and put himself in position to score in transition more than he has so far this season but missed a few easy shots at the basket in the first half. McDonald shot the ball well from the perimeter knocking down both of his three point attempts in the first half.
As a team the Tar Heels started 8-14 from three including a buzzer beater from well beyond half court by Hairston, four different UNC players hit a three. Eight different players scored in a well balanced half with Bullock leading the way with 11. Score at the half UNC 49 Mississippi State 17. UNC had a 32-point lead at half, its largest halftime lead vs major conference team since 2005 vs Virginia.
Hubert started the second half for the first time this season after a strong first half. UNC started the half flat shooting just 1-5 in the first three and a half minutes of action and looking uninspired at times. Roy brought in an entire new lineup after looking very fired up on the sideline.
After scoring 49 points in the first half UNC scored just 10 points in the first six and a half minutes of the second. With 13 minutes to play, five players were in double figures for the Tar Heels, oddly Strickland led the team in field goal attempts with nine.
The starters reentered the game five minutes later and again Hubert immediately made his prescense felt with a strong inside slam on a nifty pass from McAdoo. UNC continued to look flat and seemed content with isolating and taking the first available shot in the half court and failed to get out in transition through 11 minutes of play in the second half.
Brice Johnson the teams third leading scorer coming into the game did not score until he made a put back with 24 seconds to go. Johnson looked rushed and didn’t demonstrate any patience around the rim. Hairston continued his terrific shooting night with two straight deep three pointers to extend the lead to 42.
The Tar Heels shot just nine free throws in the game, they shot the ball well from the perimeter but against a team like Mississippi State that they clearly have the advantage in the athletic department, they need to get to the rim and draw fouls with greater frequency.
The perimeter players led the way in scoring in this one with McDonald leading Hairston with 21, Bullock was next with 16 and Strickland tied McAdoo who led the team the first three games in scoring with 10. Overall the team shot 15-32 from three point land.
UNC closed out the blowout with a 95-49 victory. The Heels will face Butler tomorrow night.