CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—For a few minutes in the second half, Andrew Goudelock was doing everything he could to remind Roy Williams and North Carolina of their miserable time last season.
Instead, the 25th-ranked Tar Heels seemed to focus on how to return to the lost transition attack that has long powered the Hall of Fame coach’s best teams.
John Henson scored a career-high 19 points and ignited the decisive second-half run to help North Carolina beat College of Charleston 74-69 Sunday night, avenging last year’s overtime loss to the Cougars while showing some welcome signs of growth after a frustrating week.
Henson also had seven rebounds and two blocked shots for the Tar Heels (4-2), who rallied from a five-point deficit midway through the second half.
While Goudelock had another big game against his team, Williams sounded pleased overall with the way his players—particularly sophomore Dexter Strickland—defended the high-scoring guard. He also could see progress in the way his young team started getting out in transition after missed shots and turnovers in the second half, speeding up the tempo in a way they have struggled to do ever since Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough left school after winning the NCAA championship two seasons ago.
“I thought our team in the second half came together with more emotion, more enthusiasm,” said Williams, who won his 200th game at his alma mater. “I think they lost themselves in the game more than they have at any point this year, and I think that’s the way you grow and mature as a team.”
It had been a rough few days for North Carolina leading up to Thanksgiving. The Tar Heels lost to Minnesota and Vanderbilt in consecutive games to close the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, then returned home with a lethargic showing in which they blew most of a 22-point lead in the second half before holding on late to beat UNC Asheville 80-69.
Then there was the matter of playing the team that beat the Tar Heels 82-79 in January in a game that seemed to start UNC’s precipitous decline in Williams’ worst season as a head coach. Goudelock scored 24 points and hit the tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of that regulation in that one.
This time, he had 28 points on 11 for 27 shooting, including a dazzling 2-minute flurry of 13 points that gave the Cougars their biggest lead at 48-43. It was one of many sequences that proved College of Charleston just wasn’t afraid of North Carolina, down to when Trent Wiedeman stuffed down a 1-handed reverse dunk against Tyler Zeller for the Cougars’ final lead at 54-52.
But from there, the Tar Heels pushed ahead and showed Williams some things he’s been looking for heading into Tuesday’s trip to No. 19 Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
“I loved our poise,” Williams said. “They go up five and Goudelock’s making some unbelievable shots, and we kept playing. I don’t want to call a timeout and have the kids panic. I think you get stronger through the course of your program if the kids can figure it out themselves.”
Henson, the lanky 6-foot-10 forward who has struggled with his offense, looked steady all day and banked in a shot in the lane to put the Tar Heels ahead for good with about 7 1/2 minutes left. That shot started an 8-0 run that finally gave them some breathing room, with Strickland following with a dunk off a steal from Harrison Barnes before Henson capped the run with a confident hook over Jeremy Simmons to make it 64-56 with 4:51 to play.
“Earlier this week, I talked with Coach a little bit,” Henson said. “He said, ‘Just play within in the flow and let things come to you,’ because we both felt like I was forcing things a little bit.”
Henson helped North Carolina overcome shaky performances from top scorers Zeller and Barnes, who each scored eight points on a combined 7-for-24 shooting.
While Henson was soaring, Goudelock went scoreless for 10 minutes until his three-point play cut the deficit to five with a minute left. The Cougars got no closer.
“Our game plan was to hang in there with them and see if Goudelock got hot,” Cougars coach Bobby Cremins said. “It happened. We hung in there and then we got hot. …
“When we went up five, I thought we definitely had a chance because Goudelock was putting on a show.”