- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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This wasn’t exactly the ending No. 9 North Carolina expected when it arrived in Hawaii: playing Division II Chaminade in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational. But the Tar Heels made the most of it, dispatching the host Silverswords in short order, 112-70.
Turning point: Chaminade led 9-6 (on nine consecutive points from senior DeAndre Haskins) when the Tar Heels pulled away, for good, on a 14-0 run. The breakaway included four 3-pointers, including three from junior wing Reggie Bullock.
Why UNC won: The Tar Heels led 20-9 just four minutes into the game, quite the contrast to the UNC team that managed only 18 points against Butler in the entire first half the night before. The Heels also went to the free throw line on their first possession (something they didn’t do the entire first half Tuesday), were more aggressive around the basket (outscoring Chaminade 52-18 in the paint) and shot better than 62 percent for the game. The Silverswords might be a Division II team, but this time, UNC showed up ready to play, and to play hard.
Why Chaminade lost: It was outmanned. The Silverswords were able to upset Texas on Monday thanks to a bevy of Longhorns turnovers (17, compared to 10 assists), poor Longhorns shooting (56.7 percent from the free throw line, 19 percent from the 3-point arc) and a fantastic 32-point effort from Haskins. Haskins -- despite wearing a wrap on his left knee in the second half -- was terrific again Wednesday, finishing with 22 points. But the Tar Heels made 61.9 percent of their free throws and 48.1 percent of their 3-pointers, and turned the ball over only nine times.
What it means for UNC: A wake-up call. Blowing out Chaminade won’t soothe the angst of UNC’s Tuesday loss to Butler (during which it fell behind by as many as 29 points), nor should it. But coach Roy Williams can use this tournament as a learning experience for a team still trying to find its identity after losing four starters from last season’s squad. After playing four games in six days, the Tar Heels head home for a short break, but they’ll be tested again on the road soon -- in the form of top-ranked Indiana.
What it means for Chaminade: The Silverswords, hosts of the tournament, fell to 7-78 since the event’s inception in 1984. But they made some more lasting memories. It was their improbable win over Ralph Sampson’s top-ranked Virginia team in 1982 that led to the creation of the tourney, and it was their improbable win over Texas in this year’s opening round that showed again that Cinderella -- even the Division II version -- can make an appearance in November, too.
Other observations: UNC freshman forward Brice Johnson got his first start of the season, in place of sophomore Desmond Hubert. He finished with a career-high 16 points. ... It marked the first time the Tar Heels reached triple digits since January.
What’s next: UNC will play at top-ranked Indiana on Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Chaminade will play Dixie State College of Utah on Dec. 3.