Freshman Justin Jackson led five double-figure scorers as North Carolina cruised past Fayetteville State, 111-58, in an exhibition contest at the Smith Center on Friday night. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 22-5 lead in the first 8:34 of the game, then shot 61.5 percent from the floor after halftime to lead by as many as 53 and put the game away.
Jackson started the game and finished with 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the floor, including 3 of 4 three-pointers. He also had five rebounds, two assists and two steals while displaying poise throughout the game.
“[Justin] has an ability to score the ball and make some really good passes, particularly tonight in the first half, head coach Roy Williams said afterward. “He had two assists, but he had them back to back in the first half, and he made some good passes for us as well.”
All-America point guard Marcus Paige agreed, saying of Jackson: “He is big for a guard, he rebounds well and obviously he is really efficient. He doesn’t take bad shots and he doesn’t force anything. And he can knock down open shots. And he plays hard on the defense. You know especially for a freshman, that’s a big thing. He gives his best effort on the defensive end; he is going to be a big player for us.”
Jackson’s rookie classmates also played well, as fellow freshmen Theo Pinson (15 points, eight rebounds, 6 of 9 shooting and two three-pointers) and Joel Berry II (12 points, four assists and four steals despite 3 of 10 shooting) also had solid exhibition debuts.
Brice Johnson shot 2 for 6 but was stout in the post and had 13 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end. J.P. Tokoto had six points, seven rebounds and eight assists with just one turnover in 21 minutes, earning praise in Williams’ postgame press conference.
Sophomore Isaiah Hicks looked comfortable coming off the bench and playing in the post after a freshman season on the wing, providing energy as well as his 13 points (on 6 of 6 shooting) with five rebounds and three steals in 14 minutes.
“That is something that Coach [Williams] always talked to me about, just getting out there and being more aggressive,” Hicks said afterward in the Tar Heel players’ lounge. “Last year, it was like a deer in headlights, didn’t know what to do, just too nervous or something. This year, I just slowed down. Coach says when you’ve got a foot in the post, score. That’s what you want a big man to do. Take that and something you look at all of us to do, be aggressive and attack the rim. ”
Fayetteville State got 17 points from Juwan Addison and 10 from Marquette Hill.
Senior point guard Luke Davis was not in uniform for the game and will miss two to three months with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Both teams looked sloppy at times, as the Broncos committed 22 turnovers to Carolina’s 20. But the Tar Heels corrected things with their second-half shooting and held FSU to 31.4 percent shooting from the floor overall.
Good ball movement by the Tar Heels led to 25 assists on 39 made baskets.
“For us, it was good to get out and concentrate on basketball for a while and get some things done, and we were happy to do that,” said Williams. “I think it was good for us. I think we don’t play again until the next exhibition game on Nov. 7, and we’ll have some practices until then.”
Carolina’s second and final exhibition game of the 2014-15 preseason will come in two weeks, on Friday Nov. 7 against Belmont-Abbey in the Smith Center. The Tar Heels host North Carolina Central in the regular season opener on Nov. 14.