North Carolina may be inexperienced and a little ragged on offense, but the 10th-ranked Tar Heels still have one thing you can't teach - height.
"I would say their size basically overwhelmed us," Florida International coach Shakey Rodriguez said Monday night after his team lost to the Tar Heels 65-44 in the opening round of the Preseason NIT.
Florida International shot only 29 percent from the field.
"Where size makes the difference in the game of basketball is your shooting percentage," Rodriguez said. "It becomes a problem because you're not used to elevating over them. Our guys were pump faking at times when there was no reason to, just anticipating situations. "
"You're talking about three guys 6-10 or 7-foot on the floor at the same time. Our guys had to adjust a lot of shots and they stayed at home with our perimeter shooters and we didn't get good looks."
Ademola Okulaja scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds to lead the Tar Heels.
"We made them take bad shots and that was the deciding factor," said Okulaja. "We knew who their shooters were and who to watch out for. To hold them under 50 (points) is a good feeling."
The Golden Panthers (2-1) were playing their third game in four days and wore down against the deep Tar Heels (2-0), who will play host to Georgia on Wednesday night in the second round. North Carolina edged the Bulldogs 82-80 in overtime last year in Athens, Ga.
"If I'm not around in the second half I'm home asleep," North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge said in jest when asked about Wednesday's 9:30 p.m. starting time.
Brendan Haywood added 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for the TaHeels, who have won 51 straight games against non-conference opponents.
After shooting 28.6 percent in the opening half, the Golden Panthers didn't fare any better in the final 20 minutes, scoring only 19 points in the second period.
"Obviously we didn't make shots, it's not brain surgery," said Rodriguez. "We are ordinarily a high-scoring, powerful offensive machine. We scored close to 90 a game last year so we can score. Credit their defense."
Raja Bell, who scored 23 points in season-opening wins over Michigan and Northern Arizona, was held to six points on 3-for-15 shooting for Florida International. Carlos Arroyo led the Golden Panthers with 13 points.
Meanwhile, North Carolina turned the ball over on five of its first six possessions of the second half as the Golden Panthers, who trailed by nine at halftime, closed to 36-30 with 16:10 left.
But freshman Jason Capel keyed a second-half surge, scoring nine points over a 5½-minute span as North Carolina increased its lead to 54-37 with 8:03 remaining.
Haywood, who didn't start because he was late to a team meeting, scored 11 of North Carolina's final 12 points of the first half as the Tar Heels took a 34-25 lead.
Florida International, with five returning starters from a 21-8 team, led by three points four minutes into the game before the Tar Heels went on a 14-1 run to take the lead for good. During that six-minute span, Florida International missed nine straight shots.
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