CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Like a little brother tugging on your sleeve, Towson State held on tightly yesterday against No. 6 North Carolina before surrendering, 98-88, at the Dean E. Smith Center.
Tigers freshman Terrance Alexander, starting in place of the injured Devin Boyd, scored 17 points in his first collegiate start and backcourt mate Terrance Jacobs led all scorers with 28, as Towson lost its second in a row.
The Tar Heels (3-0) placed all five starters in double figures and got a team-high 21 points from Hubert Davis. Point guard Derrick Phelps scored 14 second-half points, finished with 20 and handed out seven assists to spark North Carolina, which led by 45-44 at the half.
"We know how good a team is when pros call looking for passes. We had a lot," North Carolina coach Dean Smith said, referring to the NBA scouts in attendance to see Towson's Chuck Lightening. "If no pros call, we have a better chance of winning."
The NBA scouts and the rest of the 17,004 on hand watched North Carolina take control after intermission and slowly extend its lead to 11 with five minutes left. From there, both teams played sloppy basketball.
Towson forward Larry Brown missed a pair of free throws with the score 80-69, and Jacobs followed his lead, hitting just one of his two.
Alexander made a 10-foot jump shot, and on the inbounds pass, Towson center John James was fouled. But James missed the front end of the one-and-one.
Lightening then proceeded to hit one of two free throws to make it 80-73. If the Tigers had been opportunistic, they could have closed the deficit to one point.
"In practice we have no problem [with free throws]," said Lightening, who finished with 26 points (6-for-10 from the line) and fouled out with 1:03 left. "We've just got to get up there, concentrate and get the job done.
"Everything we did to lose this game, we did to ourselves. We rushed the shots in the final minutes, missed free throws. They're a good team, but we could have done the things to win it."
Although the Tigers were without 1990 ECC Player of the Year Boyd (out with a fractured elbow), North Carolina played without 7-foot center Eric Montross, who strained his right foot in practice Friday.
The Tigers managed to pull within 93-88 with 49 seconds left on a three-pointer by Myron Ray, but then James picked up his fifth foul and joined Jacobs and Lightening on the bench.
Carolina forward Brian Reese (17 points) made one of two foul shots, and Tar Heels center Kevin Salvadori tipped in the miss to ice it.