CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Freshman Dexter Strickland scored a season-high 18 points, including a key 3-pointer late, to help No. 9 North Carolina beat Rutgers 81-67 on Monday night.
Deon Thompson added 14 points for the Tar Heels (10-3), who played without injured fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard. North Carolina turned in a relatively ho-hum performance coming out of a five-day Christmas break, gradually increasing a six-point halftime lead to 17 points midway through the second half.
But the Tar Heels never put away Rutgers (9-3), which hung in and even inched as close as four points with about 2 minutes left. Strickland responded by burying a 3 with 1:54 left that pushed the margin to 74-67 and ultimately helped the Tar Heels pull away late.
Mike Rosario scored 22 points for the Scarlet Knights, who were playing in their first road game of the season.