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Gerry Broome, Associated Press
North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, left, and Kendall Marshall, right, pressure Boston College's Gabe Moton during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. North Carolina won 83-60.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — All those freshmen on Boston College's roster got quite an introduction to Atlantic Coast Conference play.

In danger of being blown out early by No. 3 North Carolina, the Eagles rallied to throw a scare into the Tar Heels for a while — only to wind up with an 83-60 loss on Saturday in their conference opener.

Matt Humphrey scored 14 points and Ryan Anderson added 13 for BC (5-10, 0-1), which started five freshmen. But 20 turnovers and a cold spell down the stretch ultimately led to the Eagles' third straight loss.

"I feel like it was a great experience for us to start ACC play against one of the best teams in the country," Anderson said.

And coach Steve Donahue found plenty of positives to emphasize to one of the nation's youngest teams — especially after it fell behind by 21 early in the second half.

"When it looked like Carolina was going to shove us out the door, I thought these guys showed a lot of character and toughness," Donahue said.

The Eagles made things interesting when Patrick Heckmann's 3-pointer trimmed the Tar Heels' lead to 59-50 with 9:18 left, before Harrison Barnes answered two possessions later with a slashing drive that started the 22-8 run that turned it back into a rout. Barnes also capped the game-breaking run with a free throw that made it 81-58 with 2:13 left before he exited to an ovation.

Meanwhile, BC managed just four field goals during the final 9 minutes.

"I thought we let our guard down and ... we just kind of forgot who we were playing and lost sense of simple things," Donahue said.

Barnes finished with 25 points and Tyler Zeller added 20 for the Tar Heels (14-2, 1-0). The preseason league favorites shot 47 percent, took control with a big first-half flurry and used an even bigger spurt late to claim their eighth straight win and 27th in a row at the Smith Center.

"Sometimes, when we get a good lead, we let up defensively and we just want to run out and score," forward John Henson said. "I think we've got to just play D a little harder — especially when we're up by a lot, just push it a little farther."

Henson added 14 points, Kendall Marshall had 11 assists and Barnes reached 20 points for the third time in four games for North Carolina, which surely remembered how uneasy the Eagles made things in their last visit to the Smith Center — especially as they threatened for a while to do it again.

BC slowed it down last February and came within a rimmed-out 3-pointer at the buzzer of a memorable upset. Instead, North Carolina escaped with a 48-46 victory in its lowest-scoring performance at the 26-year-old arena.

"We just went at them" this time, Humphrey said. "They probably expected us to make it a grinding game and slow it down, but in reality, that's the way we play as well. We just should have kept a little bit more poise and saved some of those turnovers."

The Tar Heels had nearly that many points at halftime of this one, racing to a 40-27 lead at the break.

Barnes scored 12 in the first 20 minutes, and after North Carolina let BC hang around for a little while, it grabbed control by cranking up the defense — and letting the young Eagles make plenty of mistakes.

After Boston College hit six of its first 11 shots, the Tar Heels forced BC into nine consecutive empty possessions as part of the 18-5 run that put them in command — for a while, anyway.