CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Roy Williams could barely hide his frustration Sunday.
Rashad McCants had 14 points and Sean May had a Smith Center-record 21 rebounds to lift No. 7 North Carolina to a 64-53 victory over Akron. But Williams, in his first season as coach at his alma mater, couldn’t look past the woeful shooting and what he called a “pathetic” defensive effort.
“We didn’t play basketball the way we’re capable of playing,” Williams said. “We didn’t have any intensity. We didn’t have the concentration. A lot of things we didn’t have today, but luckily we got a ’W’ out of it.”
North Carolina (6-0) had been averaging 93 points and shooting 52 percent this season, but shot just 38 percent Sunday. That included an 8-for-34 effort in the second half, a 24-percent effort that was the worst in a half for the Tar Heels since at least the 1979-80 season.
The Tar Heels were 4-for-21 from 3-point range.
Still, they hit 18 of 28 free throws, blocked nine shots and took a 53-40 rebounding advantage to stay unbeaten heading into Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener here against No. 15 Wake Forest.
Jawad Williams scored 13 points and Raymond Felton added 12 for the Tar Heels, who are off to their best start since winning their first eight games in 1998-99. May finished with 10 points on 3-for-18 shooting, and his rebounding total was the highest by a Tar Heel since Mitch Kupchak had 21 against Tulane in February 1976.
Romeo Travis scored 13 points to lead Akron (3-2). Derrick Tarver, who came into the game averaging 24.8 points, had seven on 3-for-16 shooting.
Akron shot 30 percent from the field and went 3-for-5 from the line. The Zips were outrebounded for the first time this season.
Akron had just finished its exam week, while North Carolina is in the middle of its exam schedule. Neither team had played since last weekend, and the rust showed as the teams combined to shoot 45-for-133.
“Everybody gets a little deadheaded this time of year, and it looks like both teams were struggling to get anything going or make anything,” Akron coach Dan Hipsher said.
Still, May said the Tar Heels’ exam-week schedule — two days of practice and four brief shootarounds — was not an excuse.
“That had nothing to do with today,” he said. “The ball just didn’t drop for us today. Coach is a little disappointed. The whole team is disappointed.”
The Tar Heels led 32-26 at halftime, then used an 8-0 run early in the second half to push the lead to double figures. Felton got a rebound and scored on a driving layup and Williams added a fastbreak score during the spurt, which ended with May’s stickback that made it 43-29 with 14:18 to play.
Akron eventually closed the gap to 46-41 on a tip-in by Matt Futch, but the Tar Heels answered when May found Felton for a 3 from the left wing on the next play. Then, Melvin Scott stole the ball from Tarver near midcourt and fed McCants for a layup and a 51-41 lead with 7:25 to play.
North Carolina never put together a game-clinching run, but Akron couldn’t take advantage, getting no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
North Carolina held the Zips scoreless for the first 8½ minutes of the game and forced them to miss their first 11 shots. But the Tar Heels missed several open jumpers against the Zips’ zone defense and managed to build just a six-point lead during that stretch.
Akron finally got on the board with Tarver’s jumper at the 11:23 mark.
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