November 19, 2012 9:51:43 PM
STARKVILLE- The University of North Carolina didn't even allow for the possibility for a potential upset from the opening tip.
The No. 9 Tar Heels (4-0) scored the game's first nine points and led 29-6 in less than 10 minutes. Mississippi State University (1-2) never came closer than 20 points behind after that. A fade-away 3-pointer by UNC up 42 with 5:30 left in the game and the Tar Heels led by at least 40 the rest of the contest.
"Offensively, I knew it was going to be a struggle, but we lost our composure and turned the ball over way too much," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "So, we have got a lot to build on."
Leslie McDonald scored 21 points in just 19 minutes as one of five UNC players in double-figures as the Tar Heels coasted to a 95-49 win in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The 15 three-point shots made by UNC were just two shy of the school record by a Bulldogs opponent. In its season-opening loss at Troy University, MSU allowed 10 converted three-point shots against the Trojans.
The margin of victory was the largest since the Bulldogs' 98-49 loss to the University of Alabama on Jan. 18, 2005. The 49 points is the lowest in a game for MSU since a 59-44 loss to the University of South Carolina in the first round of the 2006 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville.
MSU made just seven shots in the first half and shot 28.3 percent for the game. The Bulldogs made just two 3-pointers.
"I told him that my first year at Kansas, we lost eight games in a row and things didn't turn around for us," UNC head coach Roy Williams said. "His kids played awfully hard, we just had too many players for them."
UNC held a 49-17 lead at halftime. It was the fewest points in the first half for the Bulldogs since posting 14 against the University of Kentucky on Jan. 23, 1999.The 32-point halftime lead was the biggest for UNC against a major conference team since 2005 against the University of Virginia.
UNC's bench outscored a undermanned Mississippi State squad by itself with 51 points. Due to injuries and suspensions before the start of the tournament, MSU was down to eight active players, six of which on scholarship before the opening tip Monday evening.
"We have to make sure our guys continue to fight and compete and grow from this and get better," Ray said.
MSU was led by the frontcourt trio of Roquez Johnson, Wendell Lewis and Gavin Ware. Johnson led MSU in scoring with 12 points but missed his first seven shots from the field. Lewis had 10 points and six rebounds while Ware, a freshman from Starkville High School, had eight points and nine rebounds in his third college game.
MSU will face Marquette University at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in a second-round matchup. That contest will be televised nationally by ESPN2. Marquette (2-1) was defeated by Butler University in the previous game in Maui on a buzzer-beater by University of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
3. The Ups and Downs of Nelson's Pillar BOOK REVIEWS