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UNC 80 UNC-Asheville 69

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Well, it was a win at least.

UNC stumbled home from a 4th-place finish in Puerto Rico and survived a game UNC-Asheville team, 80-69. Tyler Zeller paced Carolina with his second-straight career high in points, this time notching 23 to go with 7 rebounds. John Henson put up a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards, and Justin Knox just missed his first double-double as a Tar Heel with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Harrison Barnes chipped in 13 points on 5-12 shooting, but he was 3-3 from three, and Dexter Strickland added 11 points and 6 rebounds.

In a flashback from last season that we really could do without, after a sloppy first half, Carolina built a 22-point lead before going ice cold shooting and throwing the ball all over the gym while the Bulldogs cut the lead to 6 at one point. But the Heels held on and put one in the win column.

Speaking of flashing back to last season, this game looks much different on paper than it did to the eyes. Carolina shot a reasonable 47% from the floor, out-rebounded UNC-A 48-27, outscored the Bulldogs 23-9 from the foul line, held them to 37% shooting, and had 14 assists on 27 baskets. But Carolina turned the ball over 20 times, only led by 6 with four minutes to play, and the guards again shot poorly. Dexter Strickland, Harrison Barnes, Larry Drew, Leslie McDonald, and Kendall Marshall combined to shoot 11-28 from the floor and 3-9 from three.

UNC played its fourth game in six days and after a late flight back from San Juan, the Heels most likely did not have a full-bore practice to work out the Puerto Rico kinks. The backcourt is playing with zero confidence right now and the team is still without an on-court leader. Clearly the offense seems like it should flow through Tyler Zeller but UNC has a hard time even passing and catching right now. And the Heels are still slow on their defensive rotations, but they do appear to be ahead of last year's team by at least knowing where they are supposed to be.

Carolina returns to action on Sunday to face College of Charleston, the team that began the Year from Hell known as 2010. With a week of practice and what should be instant motivation, UNC should come out sharper and smart money says wait until Sunday night before pushing the panic button on this season.