by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

It was Tyler Zeller’s turn to lead the way for the versatile Tar Heels as No. 7 North Carolina knocked off North Carolina State, 74-55. The senior center tallied 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds in the victory.

Zeller’s big night was one of the main reasons why North Carolina was able to overcome the loss of Dexter Strickland, who is out for the year with a torn ACL. Another was the play of his replacement, Reggie Bullock. The sophomore guard finished with 11 points and drained three from beyond the arc. When he’s on his game, Bullock is arguably the team’s best outside shooter.

Zeller and Bullock showed that even without Strickland, this squad can still play like the best team in the country.

From the News & Observer:

“We were really good for certain parts of that game,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “There’s no question about that. I thought we were active defensively and got some blocks and got a running thing going … But at the same time we realized, particularly in the first half, that State missed a lot of shots that they would normally make.”

The game was a setback for North Carolina State, who entered the contest a half game behind Duke and Florida State for first in the ACC. Although the Wolfpack is off to a 15-6 start under new head coach Mark Gottfried, it is 0-3 versus ranked opponents.