Dexter Strickland scored 16 points to lead North Carolina in a 79-73 victory over No. 20 UNLV on Saturday.
P.J. Hairston gave 15 points to go with four steals, James Michael McAdoo added 13 points and nine rebounds while Marcus Paige finished with 12 points for the Tar Heels (10-3), who have won five of six.
"Needless to say, we feel very good," said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. "It was fun to have some excitement in the locker room. We haven't been able to have that this year. That's what you coach for. I don't know what everybody does but those are the kind of moments I coach for. I see kids enjoying themselves, feeling the satisfaction of doing some things that are fairly difficult to do."
Anthony Bennett posted 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Anthony Marshall and Katin Reinhardt each gave 15 points as well for the Rebels (11-2), who had a nine-game winning streak stopped.
"The first thing is to give credit to Coach Williams and North Carolina; they had a terrific game and played extremely well," said UNLV head coach Dave Rice. "They played a great first half and even better first 10 minutes of the game. We dug ourselves into a hole in the first half. I was proud of our resiliency and being able to come back."
North Carolina came out strong and held a 19-6 lead after nine minutes when J.P. Tokoto tipped in a Paige miss.
A 7-2 run a few minutes later got UNLV back to within seven points after Reinhardt buried a 3-pointer, but North Carolina answered with the next seven points and eventually took a 39-30 lead into the break.
The Rebels went on a 15-4 run early in the second half and took their first lead of the game when Reinhardt put in a 3-ball for a 49-48 lead six minutes in.
North Carolina, though, countered with the next six points to take the lead back.
UNLV stuck with it and made it a 1-point game several times, but was unable to climb the hump.
After Khem Birch put in a layup to get the Rebels a point back at 64-63 with 7 1/2 to play, the Tar Heels scored the next five points with a Hairston free throw giving the team a 69-63 lead with under six minutes to play.
A Marshall layup with under a minute left made it a 75-71 game, but North Carolina was able to hit its free throws the rest of the way for the win.
UNC has won four of the five games against UNLV ... UNLV hosts Chicago State on Thursday ... North Carolina has off until next Sunday when it will play in Virginia ... North Carolina shot 50.9 percent while UNLV hit 45.8 percent of its shots.