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Young Heels build more confidence

Matt Doherty gets a trip home and North Carolina an early confidence builder in advancing to the semifinals of the Preseason NIT.

Rashad McCants scored eight of his 18 over the final 6:25 and North Carolina rallied for a 71-67 victory over Rutgers on Wednesday night to improve to 12-2 all-time in the tournament.

The Tar Heels are off to a 2-0 start after going 8-20 last season, the worst in school history. They head to Madison Square Garden next week with a matchup against the winner of Friday night's game between UNC-Greensboro and Kansas.

"I'm so proud of my young team, the poise they showed when they could have easily folded," said Doherty, who is from East Meadow, N.Y. "They are fighters and they hung in there and hung in there and hung in there and made plays, in spite of ourselves at times. It's nice to gut it out."

Rutgers led 59-48 with 7:26 left but fell apart against a North Carolina lineup of three freshmen and two sophomores.

Sean May led the Tar Heels with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jawad Williams added 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Herve Lamizana scored a career-high 20 and Ricky Shields also had 20 for Rutgers, but leading scorer Jerome Coleman was 2-of-18 from the field and had five points.

DUKE: Two of the nation's top high school players have signed national letters of intent. Luol Deng, a 6-foot-8 forward from the Sudan, averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a junior at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J. Kris Humphries, a 6-9 forward, averaged 26.5 points and 11.1 rebounds as a junior at Hopkins High in Minnetonka, Minn.

MEMPHIS: Freshman guard Jeremy Hunt will be out 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: The NCAA told the school it erroneously declared center Mario Austin eligible to play as a freshman when he entered school two years ago. Although the NCAA issued no ruling on Austin's eligibility for this season, Mississippi State will play it safe and continue to keep Austin out of competition. Starkeville High star Travis Outlaw, considered one of the top prospects in the country, signed a letter of intent to attend his hometown school. The 6-foot-9, 210-pounder committed months ago but took longer than expected to officially sign.