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TAR HEELS ARE GROWING UP IN A BIG HURRY

North Carolina, one of the youngest teams in the country, is off to one of college basketball's best starts -- and last season seems a long time ago.

The Tar Heels, with their heralded freshman class again leading the way, beat Stanford, 74-57, Friday night in the championship game of the Preseason NIT.

Their 5-0 start has the Tar Heels three wins short of matching their victory total from 2001-02, an 8-20 mark that was the worst in school history.

Rashad McCants had 18 points for the Tar Heels, while fellow freshmen Raymond Felton had 16 points and seven assists and Sean May added 12 points and seven rebounds.

"What happened last season got me pumped up and ready to play," McCants said. "I wanted to play for them last season but obviously couldn't. Now, we're here."

They are, and this is North Carolina's best start since it went 8-0 in 1998-99, a season that also included a Preseason NIT championship over Stanford.

"I don't think I would say I'm surprised. I'm happy," North Carolina coach Matt Doherty said. "We are good, but we can play better."

Josh Childress and Julius Barnes each had 17 points for Stanford (4-1).

"North Carolina is a very, very good basketball team. They were really ready to play and took us out of our stuff," Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. "Their speed and athleticism really hurt us."

Gators defeat Jayhawks

NEW YORK -- Florida's youngsters were looking for some sympathy after losing to Stanford in the Preseason NIT. Instead, coach Billy Donovan gave the seventh-ranked Gators a dose of tough love.

"I was not happy with their attitude in practice," Donovan said. "I think they came in wanting me to feel sorry for them. I made them watch the whole Stanford game on Thanksgiving."

It must have made an impression because the Gators responded Friday night, beating No. 2 Kansas, 83-73, in the consolation game.

It was not easy.

The Gators (4-1) constructed a first-half lead that stretched to 16 points, watched it shrink to six in the first minutes of the second half, then built it back up to 19 only to have it cut again to two before they put the game away.

It was an up-and-down performance, something Donovan believes he must expect from his young team.

"You're dealing with young guys," he said. "These guys don't know how to respond when they lose and have to play a quality opponent. We got better."

Keith Langford led Kansas (2-2) with 17, while Nick Collison and Wayne Simien scored 16 each.

Tide rolls against Buckeyes

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Antoine Pettway scored 11 points and hit the go-ahead three-pointer as No. 4 Alabama held off Ohio State, 54-48, in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic.

The Crimson Tide (4-0) struggled with its inside game, but Pettway came through each time the Buckeyes (1-1) threatened.

Alabama power forward Erwin Dudley, last season's SEC player of the year, had eight points.

Iona breezes past Rider

NEW ROCHELLE -- Greg Jenkins scored 20 points to lead Iona (3-1) to a 68-56 win over Rider (1-1) in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener for both teams.

Maceo Wofford (Jamestown) had six points for Iona.

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