North Carolina rebounds from season-opening loss

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) -- Raymond Felton made quite a difference for North Carolina.

The junior guard missed the Tar Heels' season-opening loss to Santa Clara, but he was back and so was North Carolina's defense in an 86-50 victory over Brigham Young on Monday night in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.

"It felt great," said Felton, who had six points and seven assists. "At Santa Clara I almost broke down in tears watching my teammates and I couldn't help them out. We played great defense but we still have a long way to go."

The Tar Heels, who were No. 4 in the poll before the loss, will play either Stanford or Tennessee in Tuesday's semifinals.

Felton, who started all 65 games in his first two seasons at North Carolina (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP), missed the opener as he served a one-game NCAA
suspension for playing in an unsanctioned summer league. The Tar Heels lost 77-66 to Santa Clara in Oakland, Calif., only the fifth time in 70 years North Carolina dropped its season opener.

With Felton back at the point, the Tar Heels made sure there was no losing streak, opening the game against BYU (0-1) with a 25-3 run. The Cougars missed nine of their first 10 shots from the field and hit just 18.5 percent (5-for-27) in the first half as the Tar Heels took a 48-18 lead.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams was upset with his team's defense in the opener as Santa Clara shot 50 percent from the field. With Felton pressuring the ball and Sean May establishing a presence inside, North Carolina just wouldn't let the Cougars get a good look at the basket. The Tar Heels also forced 13 turnovers in the first half.

"I really feel good about the way these kids bounced back from a disappointing loss," Williams said. "It was great to see Raymond out there and he even made a field goal in the second half."

Felton missed all six of his shots from the field in the first half, but he had seven assists and two steals in reassuming his spot in the lineup.

"We had two good practices where we focused on defense and Raymond is the best on the ball defender we have," Williams said. "This was a wakeup call but it's not good when someone else has to wake you up."

Felton said it was the first time he ever missed a game for any reason, even injury, since he started playing organized basketball in grade school.

"We just needed somebody to set the tempo on defense and it starts with the point guard and that's what I did tonight," Felton said.

May had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Tar Heels, while
Rashad McCants had 13 points.

"You can see the difference he makes. He is our general," May said of Felton. "I told him he had to lead us and he did.

"This team woke up. It's sad to say we didn't bring our best in the first game. That is sad," he said.

Mike Hall had 10 points for BYU, which finished 13-for-30 from the field (31.6 percent) and had 27 turnovers.

"It's obvious North Carolina came out tonight with a certain focus and they just overwhelmed us," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. "We panicked a bit and even had trouble making catches. I suspect if they played like this last Friday they would have beaten Santa Clara."

North Carolina's biggest lead was 39 points, which it reached three times, the last at 83-44.

It was the Cougars' worst loss since falling 90-49 to New Mexico in the 1996-97 season, when they went 1-25.

The biggest margin of victory in the 21 years of the tournament was Boston College's 108-61 win over Chaminade in the opening round in 1993.

The tournament is sponsored by EA Sports.


ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Jordan Men's North Carolina Tar Heels Carolina Blue ELITE Basketball Practice T-ShirtShop