CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — They filed into the Dean Smith Center as soon as the doors opened, quickly filling a section that went roughly seven people deep across the end line.
The North Carolina student section was primed and ready behind the basket where No. 6 Ohio State warmed up, and one player in particular was drawing attention with each jumper he attempted. The Tar Heels fans locked in on sophomore guard Duane Washington, who occasionally smiled in silent acknowledgment of their jeers.
>> Photos: Ohio State vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
By the end, it was little more than stunned silence and a few cheers from the Ohio State fans in attendance as the Buckeyes blew past the No. 7 Tar Heels to win going away 74-49.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
Washington finished with 18 points on 4-of-8 shooting from three, finishing just shy of a career-high 20. Freshman E.J. Liddell had a career-high 12 points as the Buckeyes (8-0) beat the Tar Heels (6-2) for only the third time in 15 tries.
Ohio State is off to its best start since it opened the 2013-14 season 15-0. It opens Big Ten play Saturday against Penn State (7-1).
With a two-point halftime lead, the Buckeyes shook off an ugly close to the first half by going right inside to Kaleb Wesson for a right-handed hook shot on their opening possession. It seemed to settle things, and Ohio State methodically built a lead that stretched as high as 14 points by the midpoint buoyed in large part by simply taking care of the ball.
The Tar Heels got a second-half surge from a lineup of reserves that cut the lead to nine points, but Wesson’s skip pass to an open D.J. Carton in the left corner led to a three-pointer that pushed it to an insurmountable 60-48 Ohio State lead.
North Carolina’s plans took a drastic and unfortunate turn with 12:48 to play in the first half when Armando Bacot, its third-leading scorer, scored to make it a 16-12 Ohio State lead but landed on another player’s foot. He crumpled to the floor in obvious pain and had to leave the court with the assistance of two teammates, unable to put any weight or pressure on his left leg. He did not return with what was classified as a left ankle injury.
Making matters worse, star freshman and leading scorer Cole Anthony suffered a gash on his forehead caused by an inadvertent elbow from Ohio State freshman Alonzo Gaffney. It sent Anthony to the bench for a few moments while bleeding profusely. He returned.
The first half came to a close that flew in the face of the teams’ national rankings. After Washington made his fourth three-pointer with 8:19 to play and gave Ohio State a 25-19 lead, the Buckeyes made just one more field goal for the rest of the half. They didn’t score for the final 4:16 after CJ Walker hit a jumper from the foul line, missing six of their final shots.
They would have had more opportunities, but they committed seven turnovers in the final 7:40 of the half and finished with 10 by the break.
Ohio State still took a 29-27 lead into the half, however, because the Tar Heels also struggled significantly. They came up empty on their final five possessions, all with the score at 29-27, and closed the half by missing nine of their final 10 shots.
The ugly finish overshadowed a blistering start from the Buckeyes, primarily powered by Washington. He made three early threes to give the Buckeyes a 12-8 lead, and Liddell added two turnaround jumpers — one from each elbow — as Ohio State opened up an eight-point lead at 20-12.