CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Two overwhelming runs showed just how good No. 3 North Carolina can be. In between, the Tar Heels allowed struggling Boston College to make things tense — and showed there's still plenty of room for improvement.
"At times, we were very good," forward Tyler Zeller said. "Other times, we weren't."
Harrison Barnes scored nine of his 25 points during a late run that helped North Carolina turn a close game into an 83-60 rout Saturday in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Zeller added 20 points for the Tar Heels (14-2, 1-0). The preseason league favorites shot 47 percent, took control with a big first-half flurry and used an even bigger spurt late to claim their eighth straight win and 27th in a row at the Smith Center.
North Carolina led by 21 points early in the second half before BC — and its starting lineup of five freshmen— tried to claw back.
"Sometimes, when we get a good lead, we let up defensively and we just want to run out and score," forward John Henson said. "I think we've got to just play D a little harder — especially when we're up by a lot, just push it a little farther."
The Eagles made things interesting when Patrick Heckmann's 3-pointer trimmed the Tar Heels' lead to 59-50 with 9:18 left.
"I told them it was very reasonable that I was upset and they had to play better," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "(But) we were good at times."
Their best came two possessions later when Barnes answered with a slashing drive that started the 22-8 run that pushed the lead back into the 20s. Barnes also capped the run with a free throw that made it 81-58 with 2:13 left before he exited to an ovation.
Zeller added eight points during that late surge.