The Tar Heels held the Phoenix to 21 percent shooting in the first half and took a 53-19 lead into the locker room, effectively ending the competition in the first frame.
Harrison Barnes spent the previous night vomiting due to a stomach bug, but slow, small Elon provided the tonic for his woes. He shot 7-for-12 and finished with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. Tyler Zeller missed several layups but worked aggressively on the glass and finished with 19 points and 13 boards.
Dexter Strickland was the only Tar Heel to play more than 25 minutes, enabling Roy Williams to rest his regulars and send the reserves onto the floor to gain experience.
Progress can be difficult to assess against an overpowered foe, but the Tar Heels have impressed recently despite this December stretch of weaker games. Carolina simply out-hustled Elon at times and continued to clean up mistakes made earlier this season, including more consistent block outs and fewer breakdowns in transition defense.
If you’re looking for a troubling item, perhaps the target would be freshman P.J. Hairston, who has descended into a shooting slump over the past five games. The Heels don’t need him against mid-majors, but his ability to knock in threes will prove critical against better ACC squads.
The only tense moment versus Elon occurred very late, when a male UNC cheerleader dropped his airborne female counterpart. She crashed with sickening volume and was down several minutes before rising and leaving the court assisted by trainers.
Carolina’s kids should enjoy another breezy contest on Sunday, when 2-11 Monmouth — coached by former Heel King Rice, in his first season — travels to the Smith Center. Click here to view the UNC/Elon box score.