The UNC basketball team won their third straight game last Saturday to break even in conference play after an 0-3 start in the ACC.
Led by Leslie McDonald, who finished with 20 points, and James Michael McAdoo, who finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, UNC defeated in-state rival N.C. State by a score of 84-70 in Chapel Hill last Saturday.
With the victory, head coach Roy Williams is now a perfect 11-0 in the Dean Smith Center against the Wolfpack, while bringing his Heels to a 14-7 overall record and an even 4-4 in the conference. Williams now holds a 21-2 overall record over N.C. State.
With the loss, N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried has now lost to the Heels five times, with his only win coming last season in Raleigh. The Wolfpack are now 14-8 overall and 4-5 in the ACC.
The game was a tale of two halves, but the Tar Heels outlasted the Wolfpack in the second half amidst poor shooting from the field. The Heels outscored the Pack 40-23 in the first half, while holding the Pack to 25 percent from the field. Coming out of the gates fast wasn’t luck for the Tar Heels. It was part of the plan coach Williams had in mind.
“It always helps to have a lead where you kind of have that little bit of cushion. Getting that lead early was emphasized coming into the game, that we had to hit them in the mouth really quick,” said McAdoo.
However, the second half was a slightly different story. The Tar Heels maintained their lead, but poor defense allowed the Wolfpack to shoot 65 percent from the field in the second half. The Heels led by 22 points at one point in the second half, but the Pack eventually cut the lead to 10.
It seems as if the Heels aren’t playing with the sense of urgency throughout the entire game that they need to be playing with.
“I think the biggest thing is, like Coach has been emphasizing lately, playing with a sense of urgency for 40 minutes and not having long let downs when other teams make their runs,” McAdoo said.
But where there are downs for the Tar Heels, there are also ups. Free throws were an area where many fans were pleased with how the Heels performed against the Wolfpack. The Tar Heels were 25 of 33 from the charity stripe for the game, while going 15 of 17 from the line in the second half. The Heels finished 76 percent from the line, which is an improvement being that they are shooting 63 percent for the season.
The Tar Heels also dominated the glass on Saturday. UNC outrebounded the Wolfpack 52-36, while 22 of those rebounds were offensive. The Heels also had 20 second-chance points thanks to their effort on the offensive glass.
“I think rebounds are the most important part of our team. I think with rebounds that opens up more for our teammates and allows us to get easy buckets,” said freshman forward Kennedy Meeks.
Meeks speaks the truth as the 52 rebounds helped the Heels once hold a 22 point lead over their rival.
If the Tar Heels want to continue winning, they need to keep doing what they have been doing over the past few games, while focusing on execution and urgency.
“I think we’ve struggled to execute a little bit, especially in the second half, but the urgency is obviously the biggest part,” sophomore guard Marcus Paige said. “Your effort can make up for some of the small lapses in execution, so I think that’s what we’ve been relying on.”
Coach Williams agrees that they need to execute and play with a certain intensity level consistently and not in just small bursts over a span of a few games if they want to be a good basketball team.
“I told them that this week, I think we’re really close to really becoming a good basketball team. But we’ve to take some more steps and got to maintain that intensity level for a longer period of time,” Williams said.
The Tar Heels are playing well and have the fans feeling, as rapper Rich Homie Quan would say, “some type of way”. Now they just need to keep playing the way they have, while improving in the areas coach Williams seems fit, and hopefully they can extend their win streak.
The Tar Heels will host the Maryland Terrapins in the Dean Smith Center on Tuesday, February 4th at 8:00 pm. Maryland is 13-9 overall and 5-4 in the ACC, coming off of an 80-60 road win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last Saturday.