by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS — If North Carolina needs more scoring from Justin Jackson this season, early signs are the sixth-ranked Tar Heels are going to get it.
Jackson scored a career-high 27 points, guard Joel Berry II added a career-high 23, and No. 6 North Carolina never trailed its overmatched host, defeating Tulane 95-75 on Friday night in the regular season opener for both teams.
"I would love to keep it up every single game," Jackson said. "I've just got to keep on putting in the work before and after practice so that whenever I step on the court, that's the easy part."
He made it look easy, but deferred credit to fellow Tar Heels for getting him open shots.
"My teammates were finding me. They were setting screens," Jackson said. "I just had to step into the shot and knock it down."
Jackson hit the first four 3s he attempted and also scored on an array of shots from inside and out, including a driving reverse layup. That came as no surprise to Berry, who was among those looking to get Jackson the ball.
"He's worked on his shot a lot, worked on making it, being more consistent," Berry said. "That's what we're going to need from him."
The game marked the college coaching debut for former NBA player and coach Mike Dunleavy, but his Tulane squad simply lacked the talent to stay with a team that lost last season's national championship game to Villanova on a last-second shot.
"We got caught up in the momentum, as opposed to playing the way that we needed to play to give ourselves a chance," Dunleavy said. "I liked our effort. I'm not going to like some of our film, but that's part of it."
Cameron Reynolds scored a career-high 21 points for Tulane, hitting five of six from 3-point range. Tulane struggled to get open looks near the basket against North Carolina's imposing interior, but the Green Wave hit 12 3-pointers to account for nearly half of its points.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels wound up being as dominant in this matchup as they were expected to be, despite an early lull that allowed Tulane remain close for much of the first half. Berry looks ready to take charge and be a playmaker on both ends of the court. Hicks looks formidable from 10 feet in, and Jackson demonstrated that he's ready to contribute even more than the 12 points per game he supplied last season as North Carolina looks to repeat as Atlantic Coast Conference champions.
North Carolina, which came in as a big favorite, found Tulane to be a feisty opponent early. Trailing 20-19 more than 10 minutes into the game, the Green Wave had several chances to take the lead, but Reynolds missed a 3, Reyes missed a putback, and after Tulane got the ball back again on Berry's turnover, Ona Embo was called for a charge with 8:42 left in the first half.
That's about when Berry seemed to infuse the Tar Heels with some extra intensity, starting with his fluid alley-oop lob from the top of the key to set up Hicks' dunk. Berry then stole the ball from Ona Embo and quickly fed Jackson for a layup. Berry then hit a 3 and added a free throw to make it 31-22 as North Carolina began to pull away. Berry's second 3 of the game made it 44-29, and Hicks' dunk made it 46-29 before Tulane's Von Julien hit a 3 to make it 46-32 in the final seconds before halftime.
Officials awarded North Carolina a technical free throw after a fan tossed a mini, palm-size basketball on the court. Officials said it was the second time in the game a fan had tossed an object onto the court. Berry hit the free throw.
North Carolina performed as expected against over-matched Tulane, so voters might be inclined to keep the Tar Heels about where they are unless one of the five teams above them stumbles.
North Carolina plays its home opener on Sunday afternoon against Chattanooga at 4 p.m.