For quite sometimes I have said that the UNC basketball team will go as far as its two leaders, sophomore combo guard Marcus Paige and junior power forward James McAdoo, will take them. Last night, at the Dean Dome, that was once again the case as North Carolina (15 & 7 ~ 5-4 in ACC) defeated Maryland (13 & 10 ~ 5-5 in ACC) 75 to 63 in its last regular season game between the two programs as ACC foes. The win puts the Tar Heels over .500 in conference play for the first time this season with nine games left before the post season. This game also marked the first time that this squad was able to win four games in a row this year.
Many games are talked about as being tales of two halves. In this one we could say it was a tale of many runs by both teams in the first half and Carolina holding the lead in the second. After starting off 19 to 3 thanks mostly to McAdoo and senior shooting guard Leslie McDonald, who combined for 15 of those points, Maryland came back with a run of their own and for most of the first twenty minutes the lead always floated between three and seven points. This went on until the Heels finished off the half with a 11 to 2 run, with Paige scoring five of those points. To be noted, with McAdoo out with a pair of fouls, sophomore forward Brice Johnson scored eight points in the first half (19 for the game).
In all there were three Carolina players that scored in double figures, lead by Paige’s 25 (7th all time 20+ pts game ~ all this season) who shot 5 for 8 in the second half and had seven assists as well, then Johnson’s 19, who went 8 for 8 from the field last night, and added seven rebounds and closing out with McAdoo’s dozen (15th straight game in double figures) as well as eight rebounds. However many others Tar Heels contributed in this game, like sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto, who scores three points, but had nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.
On the other hand, once again the team was just bad from the free throw line, going 19 for 37 (51.4%) and if not for Paige’s 9 for 11 the team would have shot 38.4%. In closer games this is going to hurt head coach Roy Williams‘ team, and we all know that because of this flaw the squad has lost several games this season. There have been many articles about the “what if’s” when it comes to UNC and the players that left early or did not come to Chapel Hill. The reality is that if this squad could shot from the charity stripe a bit better it could easily be with 18 wins and in the Top 25.
It is pretty evident that the coaching staff has closed up their rotation of late, with a half dozen players getting 18 or more minutes, while three got between five and eight minutes and a pair got a couple of minutes each. Tokoto led all with 38 minutes, followed by Paige’s 37 and McDonald’s 35. Most evident is the loss of minutes by sophomore center Joel James, who was once the starter in the middle but has been replaced by freshman Kennedy Meeks. Another to have lost a lot of playing minutes is freshman point guard Nate Britt, who started at the position and now comes on for a few minutes here and there.
The biggest positive from this game is that when Maryland came back on UNC, which the Terrapins did over and over, the Tar Heels never folded and always found a way to pull away once again. Even when the visiting squad was within three points it never felt like the game was slipping away from Carolina.
As I said above, the Heels are now over .500 in conference play with a 5 and 4 record and have nine games left. while I will go into more specific in the next few days, here is the break down of the final stretch for the Tar Heels. Four games are at home, of those two of them are against Top 25 teams that are both in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology, #11 Duke and #25 Pitt, and five are on the road with two teams that are in the brackets, FSU and Duke, who is also ranked. Except for Virginia Tech all the teams Carolina will face are over .500 overall, but only three games (twice vs Duke and Pitt) are above .500 in the conference.
Not part of the game, but it has to be noted, with the game in hand the fan base began to chant “ACC” as their way to send Maryland off to the
It all starts this Saturday at South Bend when North Carolina will take on Notre Dame, tip off time 12:00 p.m. EST, followed by the arch rival game against #11 Duke in Chapel Hill.