ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -Freshman RJ Davis scored 16 points and No. 14 North Carolina overcame an ugly start to beat UNLV 78-51 on Monday night in the first round of the relocated Maui Invitational.
Garrison Brooks added 14 points and surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career in the first half for the Tar Heels (2-0), who fell behind 13-0 and didn’t score for the first 6 1/2 minutes. But UNC gradually closed the gap, then had a 28-4 run spanning halftime to build its own big lead on the way to a rout.
The Tar Heels got a big contribution from senior reserve Andrew Platek, who had 11 points and hit a pair of first-half 3-pointers as UNC sputtered out of the tipoff.
Bryce Hamilton scored 15 points for the Runnin’ Rebels (0-2), who went from hitting everything to missing everything as the Tar Heels took over. After that 5-for-5 start, UNLV made just 13 of 57 shots (22.8%) the rest of the way, while the Tar Heels snagged seemingly every errant shot to finish with a 54-35 rebounding advantage.
UNLV led 27-22 on Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer with 4:56 left before halftime, but managed only one basket over the next 9 1/2 minutes — including an 0-for-10 start to the second half as the Tar Heels turned a 37-30 halftime lead into a 50-31 margin on Davis’ 3 with 15:29 left.
The tournament is being played in the North Carolina mountains instead of its traditional Hawaii setting due to the coronavirus pandemic. That gave the Tar Heels a home-state game, though with fan cutouts in the seats and pumped-in crowd noise, along with bringing Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams back to the city where he grew up and played in high school.