for this game

Freshman Zeller steps up in North Carolina opener

Nov 16, 2008 - 1:42 AM CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Freshman Tyler Zeller showed that having the same first name was not his only similarity with North Carolina's top player.

Zeller scored 18 points to lead five players in double figures as the top-ranked Tar Heels had very few issues with the absence of their star, recording an 86-71 victory over Pennsylvania on Saturday.

Playing without reigning national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough for the first time in 109 games due to a shin injury, North Carolina saw its top recruit shine in his debut, as the 7-foot Zeller had a handful of highlight dunks and fast-break layups in the easy win.

Overall, the Indiana native shot 5-of-8 from the field and converted 8-of-10 free throws.

Yet, it was not a completely impressive debut for Zeller, who finished with only two rebounds, including none on the defensive end.

"(For) Tyler Zeller to score 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting is really good," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "At the same time, I do not expect him to have zero (defensive) rebounds."

Deon Thompson scored 17 points and Wayne Ellington added 13 for the Tar Heels, who also played without starting forward Marcus Ginyard due to a foot injury.

The notable absences allowed the Quakers to stick around early, trailing just 27-25 after Tyler Bernardini hit a 3-pointer with 7:44 remaining. However, that would be the closest that Pennsylvania would be for the rest of the contest, as North Carolina then went on a 19-4 run to take control of the contest.

"It was a nice win for the first day," Williams said. "We were tight a little early. Early in the game I thought every shot we took was a good shot, we just did not make many of those shots. I think you have to give credit to Penn and their defense of play."

Senior swingman Danny Green scored five of his 12 points during the run while Thompson and freshman forward Ed Davis added four each.

The Tar Heels, who improved to 92-7 all-time in home openers, cruised the rest of the way, only experiencing some tight moments when the Quakers closed within eight points, 76-66, with 4:02 remaining.

However, Pennsylvania went on to miss six of its next seven shots.

"It was a good game for us," Penn coach Glen Miller said. "We were excited about being able to come play the No. 1 team in the country. Unfortunately, we had our opportunities tonight and did not cash in on them."

Ty Lawson also had 12 points and five assists and Davis finished with 10 and 14 rebounds for UNC, which shot 47 percent (28-of-60) from the field and had a 42-32 advantage on the boards.

Bernardini matched a career high with 26 points for Penn, a personal best he set in last season's 106-71 loss to UNC at the Palestra. He went 9-of-18 from the field with four 3-pointers.

"I thought Bernardini played really well against us," Williams said. "He is a really good player, but he would be all world against us. He has scored 26 both times we have played him. We got a little frustrated at times."

Jack Eggleston had 11 points and 12 rebounds and Kevin Egee also scored 11 for the Quakers.