North Carolina played their second game in three days taking on Florida Atlantic in the first game of the Maui Invitational Tournament.
Head coach Roy Williams stuck with sophomore Desmond Hubert inside after going with freshman Joel James to start the second half in the season opener. Hubert struggled early and was beat on the defensive end for Florida Atlantic’s first basket and committing the games first turnover on the Heels third possession.
Just like the opener PJ Hairston and Joel James were the first off the UNC bench replacing Marcus Paige and Hubert. Leslie McDonald and Brice Johnson followed shortly after that.
After being what Roy called unselfish to a fault in the opener, Reggie Bullock was aggressive early scoring 10 of the teams first 13 points including 2-3 shooting from three point range.
After starting off hot on the perimeter Carolina cooled down allowing Florida Atlantic to keep it close and tie the game with eight and a half minutes to go in the first half.
Luke Davis didn’t check into the game until about 5:15 left in the first half as Roy went with Paige more at the point. Paige looked much more comfortable, especially in transition than he did in the opener.
UNC struggled from the line in the first half shooting just 4-14 to start the game, something that must improve if this team is going to win meaningful games. Despite horrible free throw shooting and not getting much out of the perimeter game after Bullocks hot start, UNC went into the locker room at halftime with an eight point lead 32-24.
Joel James again took Desmond Huberts spot in the lineup to start the second half. UNC started the second half strong playing tough perimeter defense and getting some easy early buckets for James Michael McAdoo and James.
The bigs played well for Carolina as McAdoo proved again that he is the go to guy of this team. Both freshman Brice Johnson and Joel James thoroughly outplayed Hubert.
The pressure defense on the perimeter worked for much of the game and it was encouraging to see how hard the Tar Heels played on the defensive end of the court. The Tar Heels continued to dominate in transition and in the paint opening up the lead to 21 with just under seven minutes to go.
UNC continued to dominate and held on for the blowout win moving to 2-0.
Biggest Takeaways: Marcus Paige looks much better at the point and is progressing well. Desmond Hubert doesn’t belong in the starting lineup and in my mind doesn’t even warrant many minutes on the floor. PJ Hairston is struggling with his shot early in the season and had a couple of absent minded passes early but continued to play hard and hit a couple of shots in the second half. UNC desperately needs Hairston to shoot the ball well this season. Brice Johnson and Joel James are the real deal and I can’t wait to watch them prove themselves against elite competition. Free throw shooting must improve if this team is going to win games against top 25 teams. James Michael McAdoo is indeed one of the most explosive big men in the country and looks like an All-American through two games in the season.
Final Score: UNC 80 Florida Atlantic 56