|No. 8 UNC takes on Elon in another road tilt to start season|
With much interest about a few newcomers on No. 8 North Carolina's team, the first couple of outings for the Tar Heels are taking place away from home.
That gives the coaching staff and players a particular set of tests at the outset of the new season.
The next one comes Friday night at Elon, where the new Schar Center, an on-campus facility seating about 5,100 spectators, is expected to be rocking.
"They can handle the atmosphere and handle what's going on the court," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said referring to a core of three seniors in the starting lineup.
Williams said venturing out of the comfort zone and visiting different types of venues is something he has long embraced.
In many ways, he's doing programs from some smaller conferences a favor for making these visits with his high-profile team.
"That's what college athletics should be," Williams said. "It's something I enjoy. I like playing games like this when we win, too."
North Carolina opened the season Tuesday night with a 78-67 victory at Wofford, avenging a loss from a home game last year.
So this is the first time the Tar Heels begin with two road games since the 1986-87 season, when they were in Hawaii. The Elon game will be the 41st non-conference road game for North Carolina in Williams' 16 seasons on the bench.
"I always think going on the road is a way to test our toughness," North Carolina senior Luke Maye said.
The game at Wofford marked the debuts of highly touted freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little. They combined for 15 points and six assists. White was in the starting lineup.
"The crowd was out there, it was surreal for me," White said of his first official college game. "Just the environment."
There could be more of that type of setting in his second game. Elon is about 35 miles away from the Tar Heels' campus in Chapel Hill, so there might be a sizeable Tar Heels turnout.
The Tar Heels displayed numerous offensive sources in the first game, with Maye racking up 24 points, Cam Johnson hitting three clutch second-half 3-pointers and sophomore forward Garrison pouring in a career-high 20 points. Those helped compensate for a scoreless line from senior guard Kenny Williams.
"It could be the beginning of something very important," Brooks said of his production. "Just being in the right spots."
Elon opened the season with Tuesday night's 62-56 road victory at Manhattan, marking a strong start to coach Matt Matheny's 10th season.
"We turned the ball over a lot, but I thought most of our turnovers were mistakes of aggression and I think we got just enough stops to pull out the victory," Matheny said.
Elon, which is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, has a senior-laden roster with forward Tyler Sebring and guards Dainan Swoope and Steven Santa Ana. Sebring and Swoope had dealt with some preseason injuries, but they apparently were up to the task as the team's leading scorers in the Manhattan game with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
"The biggest question is how we mesh young talent with veteran players," Matheny said. "That's the question. ... I like our depth overall."
Schar Center held its first regular-season college game Tuesday night when North Carolina's women's team defeated Elon. The facility takes the place of long-time home Alumni Gym, which is now used as a campus recreation venue.