COLUMBUS, Ohio (WNCN) – North Carolina went into halftime down five, 38-33, to No. 16 Iona, but dominated the second half on the way to an 88-73 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tar Heels, who are the top seed in the midwest region, outscored the Gaels 30-11 through the first 10 minutes or so of the second half.
“Effort. That’s our big thing, man,” Kenny Williams said. “When we play with effort and intensity, that’s when we’re at our best.”
Cameron Johnson kickstarted the second half with a 3-pointer eight seconds in. His layup almost two minutes into the period gave UNC a lead it would never concede.
“In the second half, Cam makes a big 3 on the first possession, and all of a sudden we have a little more energy about what we were doing defensively,” coach Roy Williams said. “We defended, got some turnovers and points off that, and they missed some open shots, as well.”
Iona kept pace until the Tar Heels broke loose on a 14-2 run to take a 58-45 lead with 12:15 to play.
Johnson had 21 points to lead the Tar Heels. Four of five starters scored in double figures, and Nassir Little added 19 off the bench.
Iona guard Rickey McGill led all players with 26 points.
UNC will play Washington on Sunday.