CHARLOTTE, N.C. ——After a one-year hiatus, North Carolina played like a team that wants an extended stay in the NCAA tournament — on offense, at least.
The second-seeded Tar Heels and their long front line kept 15th seed Long Island at arm's length in a 102-87 win Friday night in an East Region opener at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes combined for 84 points as the Heels cracked 100 for the fourth time this season.
UNC (27-7) plays the winner of Friday's late game between Washington and Georgia on Sunday in a round-of-32 matchup.
Zeller, the 7-foot junior, scored 25 of his career-high 32 points in the second half as the Tar Heels rebounded nicely from last Sunday's 75-58 loss to Duke in the ACC tournament final.
Henson, the long-armed 6-10 sophomore and the ACC defensive player of the year, scored 20 of his career-high 28 points in the first half. He also had six of UNC's 10 blocked shots.
Barnes, the superb 6-8 freshman, added 24 points.
Long Island (27-7), the Northeast Conference champ, saw its 13-game win streak snapped because it was unable to match the Tar Heels' size.
The Blackbirds' tallest regulars, 6-7 Jamal Olasewere, 6-7 Julian Boyd and 6-7 Kenny Onyechi, were overmatched, though hardly intimidated.
Boyd finished with 18 points and Olasewere with 16. Sophomore guard C.J. Garner added 16 points.
Long Island's three-guard lineup tried to compensate with speed and 3-point shooting, but was unable to do sufficient damage from the perimeter. The Blackbirds were 8-for-31 from behind the arc.
Carolina was only 3-for-17 from 3-point range, with Barnes going 2-for-10. The Tar Heels outrebounded LIU 54-39 and made 31 of 42 free throws.
UNC led 53-42 at halftime. The Tar Heels stretched the lead to 21 points midway through the second half before an LIU run cut it to 77-67.
But Zeller scored seven consecutive points — part of a personal 11-point run — to push the lead back to 84-70.
Long Island again got within 10 points at 97-87, but Carolina made enough free throws down the stretch to prevail.