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BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS - Imperial Arena - Nassau, Bahamas

No. 5 UNC hangs on to defeat No. 18 Florida

3224 days ago
Associated Press
Photo: Tim Aylen | AP

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- The score was 12-0 and North Carolina coach Roy Williams was furious, scowling from his spot on the sideline.

And he didn't deny it afterward.

"I was so mad," Williams said. "I was over there ready to pull my gray hair out. I didn't think we were doing a blessed thing right on the defensive end of the floor."

The scoreboard said otherwise.

Even while Williams fumed, it was his Tar Heels running out to leads of 12-0 and 20-4, and that was more than enough to fuel their 75-64 win over No. 18 Florida on Friday night in the fifth-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Kennedy Meeks scored 18 points and tied a career high with 13 rebounds, while Marcus Paige added 16 points for the Tar Heels (5-1).

Justin Jackson had 12 points, and J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson added 10 apiece for North Carolina, which won its last two games in the Bahamas after an opening loss to Butler.

"We feel better than we did after the first night, there's no question about that," Williams said.

Kasey Hill led all scorers with 20 points and Michael Frazier II added 17 for the Gators (3-3), who struggled again offensively. Florida shot 33 percent from the field, 22 percent from 3-point range and still hasn't reached the 70-point mark in any game this season.

The third loss matches the Gators' total for all of last season, when they went 36-3 and made the Final Four.

"Right now, the truth is slammed in our face, which I think is great," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "A lot of times in your non-conference scheduling, when you don't play against high-level competition it's hard to get to a truth."

Added Florida's Jon Horford: "We honestly thought we were better than what we are."

North Carolina made seven straight shots in the early going, Florida started off by missing its first 10 and the game looked as if it was going to be a complete runaway. By the time Florida made a shot, North Carolina had a 12-0 lead. Meeks' basket midway through the half to make it 20-4, and North Carolina wound up taking that 16-point cushion into halftime with a 39-23 lead.

Florida finally got some things to work after halftime.

A 9-2 run capped by Horford's layup got Florida to 45-37 early in the second half, and the Gators were down just 62-52 after Frazier made a 3-pointer followed by a free throw from Hill with 4:29 remaining.

But Paige curled around a screen on the ensuing Carolina possession to make a 3-pointer -- his first of the night, pushing the lead to 13 and extending his streak of making at least one shot from beyond the arc to 19 straight games.

North Carolina had all five starters in double figures, none taking more than 12 shots.

"Our focus is pretty much just share the ball," Tokoto said. "Move it around, get touches to everybody and whoever has a good shot, take it."


North Carolina: The Tar Heels are 4-2 against Florida. Friday's matchup was the first meeting between the programs since the 2000 Final Four, when Florida beat North Carolina 71-59. ... Williams improved to 3-1 against the Gators, each previous matchup coming when he was at Kansas.

Florida: It's Florida's first 3-3 start since 1996-97, when the Gators finished with a 13-17 record and went 5-11 in the SEC. ... The Gators' losses have been against Miami, Georgetown and now the Tar Heels, teams with a combined 16-3 record. ... Think these Florida offensive struggles are bad? Ha. The Gators lost to North Carolina by scores of 59-14 and 42-6 in the 1920s.


North Carolina shot a season-best 58 percent in the first half. The Tar Heels followed that by shooting a season-low 32 percent in the second half.


Florida's bench shot a season-low 3 for 14 on Friday night. The Gators came into the game getting 42 percent shooting by reserves; the bench connected on 21 percent of its tries against North Carolina.


North Carolina: Home against Iowa on Wednesday night.
Florida: At Kansas, Dec. 5