James Michael McAdoo had 19 points and seven rebounds in No. 21 North Carolina's 93-87 win over East Carolina.
P.J. Hairston added 18 points and Reggie Bullock chipped in 14 for the Tar Heels (8-2), who have won three straight since losing at Indiana on Nov. 27.
"They kept fighting, kept fighting," UNC head coach Roy Williams said of East Carolina. "We gave them a lot of opportunities, screwing things up a bit. I got more frustrated today, perhaps, than I have in a long time. Looked down at the stat sheet, no post player got an offensive rebound in the entire game."
Akeem Richmond led East Carolina (6-2) with 17 points.
"I thought that we battled hard. They have a very good offensive team and I thought we did some good things out there. They made some key plays coming down the stretch," Pirates head coach Jeff Lebo said.
J.P. Tokoto's layup gave UNC an 88-77 lead with 1:15 left in the game, but Miguel Paul made a pair of free throws and Richmond's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 88-82.
Dexter Strickland then split a pair from the line and Richmond hit another triple, which pulled East Carolina within 89-85 with 34 ticks to go. Strickland sunk two from the charity stripe at the other end before Marshall Guilmette's layup again cut the margin to four.
But Leslie McDonald made a layup with 16 seconds left and Maurice Kemp misfired from beyond the arc as time expired.
Shamarr Bowden's 3-pointer pulled East Carolina within 12-10 four minutes in, but the Tar Heels countered with a 12-0 run to seize control.
Strickland hit a jumper and a triple during the burst, which was capped when Hairston sunk two free throws for a 24-10 edge with 12:06 remaining in the opening half.
UNC, which led by more than double digits for the duration of the stanza, took a 42-26 margin into the locker room.
The Pirates began the final 20 minutes on a 14-5 swing and Robert Sampson's layup pulled the visitors within 47-40 with 14:35 left, but Hairston nailed a triple and Tokoto's tip-in increased the margin back to 12.
North Carolina shot 50.7 percent (34-of-67) from the field, while the Pirates finished 41.8 percent (28-of-67) from the floor ... Strickland tallied 12 points.