CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – McNeese State's streak of good shooting came to an end. So did its streak of winning.
P.J. Hairston scored a career-high 20 points to help No. 23 North Carolina beat McNeese State 97-63 on Saturday.
The Cowboys (6-4) entered play having shot 51 percent from the floor in the last five games, all victories. They shot 36 percent in each half against North Carolina, making 3 of 17 3-point attempts in the game.
McNeese State made three of its first 16 shots, allowing the Tar Heels to race out to a 54-23 lead at halftime.
"In this type of environment, you cannot build a big deficit like we did in the first half," McNeese State coach Dave Simmons said. "They affected our shots in the post, and they are a tremendous rebounding team."
Jeremie Mitchell scored 13 points to lead the Cowboys. Craig McFerrin added 10 points for McNeese State, which dropped to 0-4 against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Reggie Bullock scored 17 points for the Tar Heels (9-3), who made 13 of 28 3-point attempts and never trailed. James Michael McAdoo scored 12 points, Leslie McDonald added 11 points, and Brice Johnson had 10 points for North Carolina.
The Tar Heels blew open the game early with a 22-4 run to take a 27-8 lead midway through the first half.
McDonald led the charge, scoring all of his points in the first half. He made his first two shots, both of which were 3-pointers, during the decisive run.
The Tar Heels bounced back from an 85-67 loss at Texas on Wednesday night in which they shot 31 percent from the field, made 3 of 19 3-pointers and committed 18 turnovers.
"A win always makes you feel better," Hairston said. "I think the main thing we did better this game was that we played with a little bit more heart and played together as a team. I think against Texas, we tried to do it a little too much on our own and tried to force shots."
North Carolina's 3-point shots fell early and often against McNeese State. Marcus Paige began North Carolina's 22-4 spurt with a 3-pointer, and Bullock ended it with a 3-pointer.
The Tar Heels shot 54 percent from the field in the first half, including 8 of 17 from 3-point range.
North Carolina took advantage of a porous zone defense by McNeese State. The Tar Heels whipped the ball around the perimeter to generate open looks, recording 18 assists and three turnovers in the first half.
"Bullock and their perimeter guys lit us up when we went zone," Simmons said. "If they shoot the ball like that, it is going to be tough for anybody to beat them."
When the long-range shots didn't fall, North Carolina simply rebounded and scored. The Tar Heels finished the game with more offensive rebounds (22) than McNeese State's total for defensive rebounds (21), scoring 21 second-chance points.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams bristled at the notion that his team should be content to launch 3-pointers against opponents who play zone. He said he wants his team to get the ball inside more often and earn more trips to the free throw line.
"If you want to give me something, that means you think it's to your advantage," Williams said. "I want to take what I want. . I think you live by the 3, and you die by the 3."
While the Tar Heels scored from long distance, the Cowboys struggled to score from anywhere.
McNeese State managed only one field goal, a jumper by McFerrin, during a seven-minute stretch in the first half as the Tar Heels pulled away.
"We were very active and talking," Hairston said. "I think against Texas, we didn't communicate as well. Guys got left for open 3s and layups. I think this game, we did a great job of talking on defense and being in the right spots on the rotations."