Zeller is beginning to operate more efficiently

ESPNU — North Carolina is set to play three games in five days, the first tipping off last night against Appalachian State in Chapel Hill. Historically, these exam week games tend to feature UNC at less than its best, and the ASU contest repeated the pattern.

The Heels blew open the game early and made a couple separate massive runs against the outgunned Mountaineers, but they also allowed ASU to make runs of its own and keep the game relatively close for much of the contest.

Individually, Tyler Zeller played the starring role. The senior big man shot 11-for-15 from the field for a season-high 31 points and added 10 rebounds. Frontcourt companion John Henson tallied 17 points and six rebounds, as the Mountaineers simply lacked the size to compete inside against UNC.

Improved rebounding may be been the one noteworthy change in this game versus others this season. The Heels earned just a 39-32 edge on the glass but appeared far more dialed in crashing the offensive backboard. A team playing with such a big lineup necessarily will sacrifice some quickness, so it’s imperative that Carolina maximize its height advantage.

Jason Capel was the game’s other storyline. The former Tar Heel—who experienced great highs under Bill Guthridge and devastating lows with Matt Doherty—now is head coach at ASU and is attempting to establish his own coaching identity.

Roy Williams seemed especially sensitive about the possibility of showing up a fellow alumnus, and a show-off pass by Kendall Marshall (who racked up another 13 assists) resulted in an immediate benching. Williams also went to his reserves earlier in the game than he typically prefers.

Suppressing minutes becomes a priority when three games occur so tightly packed, and no Tar Heel played 30 minutes versus ASU. Carolina will host Nicholls State on Monday and annual foe Texas on Wednesday, the final quality non-conference opponent until the NCAA Tournament in March.

Click here to see the UNC/ASU box score.