GREENSBORO, N. (AP) — John Henson had a great seat on the North Carolina sideline to watch his teammates advance in the NCAA tournament. The question is how long the Tar Heels will have to win without him, not to mention if his sore left wrist will heal enough to make him a factor in March at all.
Tyler Zeller had 17 points and 15 rebounds to help North Carolina beat Vermont 77-58 on Friday in its NCAA tournament opener despite playing without its shot-blocking and rebound-snatching starter.
The top-seeded Tar Heels didn’t turn in a rousing performance, but they had a danger-free afternoon and advanced to play Creighton on Sunday in the third round of the Midwest Regional. They also bought Henson another two days to recover.
Against the 16th-seeded Catamounts (24-12), that meant another strong performance from freshman James Michael McAdoo starting in Henson’s place. McAdoo shook off a poor shooting start and finished with a season-high 17 points to give Zeller some help in the paint, including a one-handed tip slam off a missed 3-pointer from Reggie Bullock that sent the home-state crowd wearing plenty of light blue into a roar.
McAdoo also had consecutive three-point plays during the run that broke the game open after halftime.
While McAdoo’s surge helped the Tar Heels improve to 30-1 in NCAA tournament games played in their home state, they know that the question of Henson’s return is becoming more urgent with each game. The 6-foot-10 junior – who averages 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks – was hurt during when he fell to the floor while being fouled during last week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and missed the last two games in Atlanta.
North Carolina led by 12 at halftime before blowing the game open. After McAdoo’s three-point plays, fellow rookie P.J. Hairston followed with a 3-pointer, then Barnes added a three-point play that pushed North Carolina’s lead to 60-37 with 8:12 left.
Sandro Carissimo had 11 points for the Catamounts, who beat Lamar in one of Wednesday’s First Four games. They arrived in Greensboro late Thursday afternoon and had little time to get acclimated to their surroundings before getting the unenviable challenge of facing a high seed playing about an hour from its own campus.
The Catamounts shot 40 percent and missed 15 of 18 3-point tries. Perhaps no Vermont player struggled more than leading scorer Four McGlynn, who came in averaging about 12 points off the bench.
The freshman had 18 points against Lamar, but finished with just six against the Tar Heels on 2-for-13 shooting. He also missed all six of his shots from beyond the arc.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)