The Tar Heels survived a very discombobulated middle stretch in the first half to stake a seven point halftime lead on the way to a 80-69 win over Northwestern in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
The game started well enough from an offensive standpoint with Justin Jackson hitting a three to open the game and the Tar Heels offense operating with a fair amount of efficiency on the way to an early 18-8 lead. Northwestern responded with a flurry of threes to cut the lead to one. From there the Tar Heels struggled on both ends. With Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson rotating out of the game the offense sputtered and defensively the Tar Heels had trouble stopping dribble penetration. UNC's 18-8 lead turned into 35-29 deficit at the under four timeout.
UNC closed the half on a 14-1 run to retake the lead and seize nominal control of the game. Jackson, Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson made pivotal contributions down the closing stretch to send the Tar Heels to the break up 43-37.
The offensive efficiency continued in the second half with the Tar Heels surviving a bad stretch of defense by Theo Pinson on Northwestern's Tre Demps. Demps scored the first ten points of the second half for the Wildcats but the array of Tar Heels weapons was more than enough to offset the scoring binge. Led by Jackson, UNC pushed the lead to as much as 20 points with 8:42 left in the game.
Northwestern would make one more run to cut the lead to nine with 2:38 left. Berry responded with a three to push the lead back to 12 as the Tar Heels went on to win by 11.
After struggling through three games, Jackson has back-to-back 20 point games. On the evening the sophomore guard scored 21 points and collected 13 rebounds for his first career double-double. Jackson also chipped in four assists and was key in breaking the Wildcat zone. Brice Johnson also recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Meeks and Berry each had 12 points. Pinson went 3-8 from three on the way to 10 points while Hicks hit double figures going 4-4 at the line. UNC had six players in double figures.
The Tar Heels now face Kansas State on Tuesday at 9:30 PM in the championship game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.