"We were not very sharp, to say the least," Williams said. "That was a huge part of the game. But at the same time, I didn't think we had the intensity and concentration level that we needed to have."
With his team leading 35-30 at halftime, Williams changed his lineup. He surrounded Paige, the star point guard, with reserves Luke Davis, Isaiah Hicks, Jackson Simmons and Desmond Hubert.
The group responded with a 5-0 run, holding the Norse (4-8) scoreless on six possessions. Hubert had an emphatic blocked shot on Northern Kentucky's second possession, and the Tar Heels later delivered their best team defense of the game. As the reserves made good plays, including a highlight-worthy dunk by Hicks, Williams barked at his benched starters.
"I was ticked off," Williams said. "I just wanted to try somebody different. I didn't know what it was. The assistants on my staff did a great job because what I wanted to do was stay out at halftime and run sprints the entire freaking half. They thought it was not the right thing to do. But, God, I wanted to do that so badly."
Northern Kentucky trailed 44-37 early in the second half before North Carolina went on a 12-3 spurt to blow open the game.
No. 3 Ohio State 71, Louisiana-Monroe 31 • In Columbus, Ohio, Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 17 points and LaQuinton Ross added 15 to lead Ohio State past Louisiana-Monroe. Amedeo Della Valle chipped in with 14 points for the Buckeyes (13-0).
San Diego St. 118, St. Katherine 35 • In San Diego, Winston Shepard scored 21 points and Dwayne Polee had 19 points and 12 rebounds as San Diego State overwhelmed tiny St. Katherine College for its ninth straight win. The Firebirds were scheduled to catch an early-morning flight for a game at Utah on Saturday afternoon.
Top 25 scores
• No. 3 Ohio State 71, Louisiana-Monroe 31
• No. 19 UNC 75,Northern Kentucky 60
• No. 20 San Diego St. 118, Saint Katherine 35