Back on land, North Carolina will not be surrounded by as much pomp and circumstance for its second contest as it saw in its season opener.
Remaining on the road after an impressive opening victory, the top-ranked Tar Heels look to stay unbeaten in its series with North Carolina Asheville on Sunday.
“It’s an out of body experience,” freshman Michael McAdoo told the North Carolina official website. “It’s so surreal. It makes you even more thankful, and it makes you even more hungry.”
Preseason All-American Harrison Barnes scored 17 points while John Henson added 12 and a career-high nine blocked shots as the Tar Heels led by as many 21 points and held the Spartans to 30.6 percent shooting overall, and 2 for 20 from 3-point range.
North Carolina did not have much time to savor the experience. The team flew out of San Diego and landed early Saturday morning in Asheville, where it held practice.
“This is a big challenge because it is an unusual circumstance and you have to be able to make adjustments on the fly,” said Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, who grew up in south Asheville.
The Tar Heels will now look to improve to 8-0 all-time against the Bulldogs, having won the previous seven meetings by an average margin of 28.3 points. This is North Carolina’s first visit to Asheville since a 66-49 win there Dec. 28, 1995, and Sunday the Bulldogs will be opening their new Kimmel Arena.
“We’re excited about playing in our first game at Kimmel Arena,” UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach told the school’s official website. “It should be a great day.”
It will be an extremely special day for the Bulldogs if they can find a way to contain the Tar Heels’ stars, something they were unable to do in last season’s 80-69 loss at Chapel Hill. Tyler Zeller had 23 points with seven rebounds, Henson added 10 with 11 boards and Barnes scored 13 points for North Carolina, which outrebounded Asheville 52-32.
Zeller had nine points and six rebounds against Michigan State.
The preseason favorite to win the Big South after losing to Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament, Asheville faces its second straight in-state ACC school after falling 84-75 at North Carolina State on Friday.
Guard Matt Dickey scored 17 points and Jaron Lane added 13 and eight rebounds as the Bulldogs outscored the Wolfpack by eight points in the second half after trailing by 17 at the break.
“Eddie has a good club that’s scrappy,” first-year N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried told the UNC-Asheville official website.
Dickey, the Big South’s preseason player of the year, averaged a team-high 15.7 points in 2010-22. He had 15 and four assists versus North Carolina last season.
Guard J.P. Primm, who had nine points versus North Carolina State, scored a team-high 21 in that contest.