Nicholls provided the ideal practice fodder for Carolina on Monday night at the Smith Center, but the Tar Heels failed to seize the moment.
Yes, the fifth-ranked Tar Heels won 99-49, but aside from rebounding the ball by a huge margin they did little to put on a highlight film or to prepare them for Wednesday's 7 p.m. game against 9-2 Texas.
It's hard to say Carolina improved much. The Tar Heels played sloppily at times, when this game gave them a chance to work on their defense and sharpen their offense.
Coach Roy Williams finally got so angry he benched his starters for a period and made them watch the second string.
"I was really mad at the first group," Williams said. "I let them sit there. I thought the second group got more active."
The Tar Heels had their moments, but not nearly enough of them, given the lack of practice time they have had lately. This was really a wasted opportunity in many ways.
"For us to be the team we want to be," Williams said, "we have to invest. We have to do it on game night and not just talk about it."
Then Williams took the blame.
"I did not get this team ready to play this game," Williams said. "It was bad coaching on my part. We weren't focused. We weren't ready to play. It is my [job] to make sure those guys don't do that."
"I love Coach, but I think some of this is on us also," Zeller said. "We're the players; We go out and play. He gives everything he can. He prepares us. He gives us all the information on the scouting reports, so we have to be able to take that and play every single night."
The best thing that came from this game was the chance for even greater team morale. Williams went deep into his bench early and throughout the game.
The truckload of rebounds required effort, but a tremendous advantage in size played just as big a role.
"We dominated the boards because we are bigger; we're gifted," Williams said. "We had a tremendous number of offensive rebounds because we missed so many shots. That is a bad thing right there."
Overall, the Tar Heels out-rebounded the Colonels 72-35, with 31 of those rebounds coming on the offensive end.
The opportunity came about because UNC shot 40.4 percent from the field in the first half and 47.4 in the second. Carolina had enough shots within five feet of the baskets to shoot 65 percent -- or better.
The Tar Heels did not make those shots, though, so three players - Zeller, John Henson and Reggie Bullock had double figures in rebounds.
Zeller and Henson grabbed 11, while Bullock got 10.
For the second straight game, Harrison Barnes failed to score in double figures. He looked lost at times. Barnes went 4-of-12 from the floor and scored nine points for the second consecutive game.
Williams got so angry at one point, he threatened to move practice from 9 a.m. on Tuesday to 7 a.m. and extend it from two hours to four (11 a.m.).
He backed off on that after the starters returned to the game and executed the way the fifth-ranked team in the nation is supposed to execute.
"It was beautiful basketball for about four minutes," Williams said.
Carolina's 72 rebounds tied the second-most in school history and were the most since 1954. The 31 offensive rebounds were also the second-most in school history.
"I think the biggest mistake we made tonight was underestimating that team and taking it lightly," Strickland said. "Coach actually said that if we didn't play better when we came back in we were going to have practice at 7 o'clock in the morning.