McCants bounces back from benching with 19 points

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Stuck in traffic and fuming, Rashad McCants kept control of his emotions. He did the same later when North Carolina coach Roy Williams told him he wouldn't be starting.

"To me, it was just focusing on the task at hand, and that was to win the game," McCants said.

He bounced back from that brief benching to score 19 points and
Sean May led the way with 20, helping North Carolina (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) beat Vermont 93-65 on Tuesday night.

Jawad Williams added 15 points and Raymond Felton had 10 for the Tar Heels (9-1), who have won nine straight since an opening loss at Santa Clara. Felton had seven assists and joined Jackie Manuel with four steals.

After arriving late, McCants' punishment was not starting for the first time this season, but he only missed about 4½ minutes before he left the bench. He made a 3-pointer about 90 seconds later, and he and North Carolina were on their way.

It reminded Roy Williams of a time Michael Jordan was tardy to a Tar Heels game because of traffic, and he made a point of telling that to McCants.

"That made him very happy," Williams said. "It's not a big deal. He's already missed time on the court, it's over and done with. I was very pleased with how he handled it."

The Catamounts (3-3) gave No. 2 Kansas quite a scare last month, eventually losing by seven points, but they never had a chance in this one. They closed to 20-17 midway through the first half before the Tar Heels closed with a 23-5 run, and the margin reached 82-40 before Williams started pulling the starters.

"Fortunately, our young kids played good at the end to make it somewhat respectable," Vermont coach Tom Brennan said. "Humility is good for the soul. There's no free lunch -- we all know that's how it works -- and today the check came. And we tipped well, we tipped very well."

Taylor Coppenrath had 13 points for Vermont, but the leading scorer in the America East Conference with a 26.8 average got 11 of those after the outcome had been decided. Stymied by May, Williams and a host of others, an obviously frustrated Coppenrath fouled out with six minutes left.

"It was like, 'You know what? I've had enough,'" Brennan said of his star. "I don't blame him. I might have left if I could have."

Ryan Schneider scored 12 points for Vermont and T.J. Sorrentine added 11.

"We knew we had the game under control," May said. "Our big emphasis was to take Coppenrath and (Sorrentine) out of the game. They're two really good players."

The Tar Heels led 17-6 before the Catamounts briefly rallied, getting 3s from Schneider and Sorrentine to get within three. But May made two free throws to start a spurt of 11 straight points for North Carolina, and he, Williams and McCants combined to score the final five points of the half to make it 43-22.

It was 55-34 before a run of 10 straight points for the Tar Heels, including a layup by Williams and two by McCants. May finished it off with two free throws, and Vermont never recovered.

Later, McCants leaped high for a dunk after a lob pass from Williams, giving the less-than-capacity crowd a final chance to get on its feet with a 77-40 lead. With the students out for Christmas break, there appeared to be about 2,000 empty seats.

"Needless to say, we're very pleased," Roy Williams said. "We caught them on a night where things didn't go well for them. I talked to our guys about trying to challenge them, and I thought we were very active on the ball and we cut off passing lanes.

"We've gotten better and better since the season started," he said.


ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Jordan Men's North Carolina Tar Heels Michael Jordan White #23 Future Star Replica Basketball Jersey T-ShirtShop