WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Tyler Zeller had 18 points and a career-best 18 rebounds to help No. 5 North Carolina beat Wake Forest 68-53 on Tuesday night.
John Henson added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Tar Heels (19-3, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shook off a miserable shooting performance to win their fourth straight game. North Carolina shot 31 percent, including a 1-for-13 stretch to start the second half before running off a 12-0 spurt to finally pull away.
Harrison Barnes added 13 points for the Tar Heels and played most of the second half despite rolling his left ankle midway through the first half.
C.J. Harris scored 19 points to lead the Demon Deacons (11-11, 2-6), who struggled just as badly as the Tar Heels with their shooting. Wake Forest shot just 30 percent, including 2 for 18 from 3-point range.
The game closed a three-game week for the Tar Heels, who beat rival North Carolina State last Thursday then defeated Georgia Tech on Sunday. North Carolina doesn't play again until traveling to Maryland on Saturday, then returns home to face No. 7 Duke next week in the latest renewal of that fierce rivalry.
The Tar Heels shot the ball well in the past two wins and hit 10 3-pointers against the Yellow Jackets, but they didn't bring that with them to Winston-Salem. In a sign of what was to come, North Carolina's first three field goals were all second-chance baskets off its own misses, while the Tar Heels shot just 4 for 19 from 3-point range.
No regular-rotation player for North Carolina shot even 50 percent, while perimeter threats Barnes, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston combined to shoot 6 for 26 from the field and miss 11 of 13 3-point tries.
Yet the Demon Deacons were in no position to take advantage.
They had lost five of six since beating Virginia Tech here on Jan. 7. While they have already surpassed last season's win total, Wake Forest had also endured some all-too-familiar results from last season's 8-24. The past four losses had all come by at least 11 points, and the Demon Deacons were greeted by plenty of empty green seats and a large splattering of Carolina blue from the stands in their own building for this one.
Still, Wake Forest trailed by 12 at halftime and was within 40-34 with about 14 minutes left against the cold-shooting Tar Heels. But Kendall Marshall knocked down a 3-pointer to start the clinching run, then Bullock added his only 3 before Zeller tipped in a miss from Marshall to cap the 12-0 run and give UNC a 60-38 lead with 6:11 left.