LAHAINA, Hawaii – Maybe North Carolina should have just gone to the beach. Butler is the team to beat in Maui.
Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham each scored 17 points Tuesday night to lead the unranked Bulldogs past No. 9 UNC, jumping out to a 17-point halftime lead and holding back several second-half surges from the Tar Heels in the second round of the Maui Invitational.
The Tar Heels (4-1) missed their first three shots and never led.
One day after a buzzer-beater over Marquette, Butler (3-1) held North Carolina to 18 points in the first half. It was by far the worst output in a half for the Tar Heels so far this season.
P.J. Hairston led UNC with 15 points.
Butler got out to a 10-2 lead in just over four minutes then built it to 14 points with a 9-0 run capped by a layup from Erik Fromm with 9:36 left in the first half. Minutes later, Fromm grinned and nodded after hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key that put Butler up 16 with less than four minutes to go in the half.
Meanwhile, Marcus Paige and James McAdoo combined for just nine points in the opening 20 minutes as UNC made only a combined eight shots.
Butler took a 27-point lead roughly seven minutes into the second half. Duhman hit back-to-back 3s less than 19 seconds apart thanks to a steal and nifty assist from Clarke.
But the talented Tar Heels did not go quietly.
Hairston scored 10 straight – eight points in just over one minute and screaming after every bucket – to pull Carolina within 17 with 9:39 to go. Chase Stigall responded with back-to-back 3-pointers in the next two minutes.
Carolina pulled within six with less than two minutes left after scoring eight points in just over 40 seconds, including six from Paige.
But Butler hit five free throws in the last 1:01 to nail down the win.