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November 23, 2010

Zeller scores career high as Heels top Asheville

CHAPEL HILL - Plenty of people come back from a trip to the Caribbean with a bit of a tropical hangover.

Most of them just don't have to get lectured by Roy Williams because of it.

"I had a nice long talk with them after the game," Williams said. "It's probably the longest I've talked to a team after a game. We've got a lot of things we need to work on."

The Tar Heels, who dropped from No. 8 in the polls to No. 25 after losing two straight on their trip to Puerto Rico, got a scare from UNC-Asheville before emerging with an 80-69 win.

This game was supposed to help the Tar Heels (3-2) shake off the malaise of consecutive losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Instead, the same mistakes seemed to haunt them.

Tyler Zeller led the Tar Heels with a career-high 23 points, 14 of which came in the first half when Zeller was perfect from the field. He hit his first seven shots of the game before finally missing five minutes into the second half.

It was the second straight game that Zeller set a career high in scoring.

"I'm just doing whatever I can to be able to win," Zeller said. "Sometimes I got the ball and they double-teamed me, so I had to pass it out. Other times, I got lucky and got to go one-on-one. I'm just trying to do whatever I can."

John Henson had 10 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season, while freshman Harrison Barnes and senior Justin Knox also scored in double figures.

Freshman guard Reggie Bullock dressed out but did not play due to flare up in his left knee, which required surgery when Bullock was in high school.

Bullock led the Tar Heels in 3-pointers heading into the game, but shooting was not their problem without him available.

The biggest issue for Carolina was its 19 turnovers and an inability to put away an inferior opponent.

The Tar Heels led by as many as 22 points early in the second half, but Asheville came back to cut the lead to as little as six points with five minutes to go on a 3-pointer from guard J.P. Primm, who led the Bulldogs with 21 points.

Asheville went on a 12-4 run over a two-minute stretch late until Carolina recovered for the double-digit margin of victory.

But if it were not for the fact that the Bulldogs shot 37 percent in the game - including a 6-for-21 mark from 3-point range - the Tar Heels might not have been so lucky.

The Tar Heels struggled early against the Bulldogs, trailing until nearly midway through the first half.

At one point, down 13-11, the Tar Heels displayed a perfect microcosm of their troubles, turning the ball over three straight times on the fast break. Had the Bulldogs hit any shots, they likely could have built a decent-sized lead over the Heels.

But Asheville missed seven straight during the stretch where UNC struggled the most. UNC missed three in a row of its own - with plenty of giveaways interspersed - but eventually took the lead when Barnes hit a 3-pointer with 11 1/2 minutes to go in the half.

The lead would grow to as many as 17 points for the Tar Heels in the first half, but that didn't mean Williams would go to the locker room happy.

Carolina led 44-31 at the break, but Williams was visibly frustrated with his team, ripping the glasses from his face when Asheville guard J.P. Primm drove for a layup just before the halftime horn.

It likely didn't help Williams' mood that Asheville got that possession in the first place thanks to UNC's 13th turnover of the first half.

"I think there were positive moments tonight, but at the same time, there were a lot of negatives we can improve on," Barnes said. "We just have to get better tomorrow."


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