- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A quick look at No. 5/6 North Carolina’s 82-63 victory over Texas at the Smith Center on Wednesday:
How it happened: A taller, more veteran North Carolina team led from the outset -- out-pacing, out-dunking and out-rebounding the Longhorns.
A 13-1 run put the Tar Heels ahead early 19-7. Texas cut into the lead with a 7-2 run of its own, but then UNC put on a sprint that had the home crowd screaming louder than it has been all season.
First, reserve guard P.J. Hairston took a pass from point guard Kendall Marshall, drove from the wing, and threw down a one-handed transition dunk that had Texas’ Julien Lewis on his back -- after he was whistled for the foul.
Hairston missed the free throw, but on UNC’s next possession, forward John Henson followed with a two-handed dunk. On the Heels' possession after that, reserve Reggie Bullock scored in transition -- on a ball batted to him by Henson. That gave UNC a 30-16 advantage.
UNC led 39-23 at halftime, and it was only more of the same after the break.
The highlight dunk of the second half came around the 12-minute mark, when UNC forward Tyler Zeller grabbed a steal and passed it to Bullock, who found forward Harrison Barnes in the lane. The sophomore promptly dunked it over 6-10 Texas senior Clint Chapman, and let out a roar.
Relief? Celebation? Maybe a bit of both. After all, the Tar Heels had lost four straight times in this series, including twice in the past two seasons, before Wednesday night.
Barnes, held to nine points each of his past two games, finished with a season-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, his first double-double of the season. Henson added 14 points and eight rebounds.
Number to know: UNC has now won 24 straight games at the Smith Center. One more win would tie the school record, set from 1992-94.
Hubbub: What was with Texas coach Rick Barnes’ sling? In case you missed it, he had surgery on his right shoulder earlier this month to repair a rotator cuff injury.
UNC coach Roy Williams, who was in a sling a couple years back after left shoulder surgery himself, said earlier this week that he had advised Barnes to go ahead with the procedure, rather than put it off until after the season.
"You can still coach," Williams told reporters. "If I had waited until the end of the season, I wouldn't have been able to play golf. I'm not that dumb."
What’s next: UNC’s players planned to begin heading home for the holidays after the game Wednesday night. They will return to campus Monday, and play Elon next Thursday. Texas will play Rice on New Year’s Eve.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.