The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 87-62 and improved to 16-6 and 6-3 in the ACC before a brutal road trip that starts Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes before a showdown at Cameron Indoor with arch rival Duke. Let’s take a look at how UNC defeated Wake Forest.
P.J. Hairston was medically cleared to play and in uniform for Carolina, Leslie McDonald was the first perimeter player off the bench. Hairston entered the game at the 14:57 min mark in the first half. The crowd roared when Hairston hit his first shot with three minutes left in the first half. Hairston played well with 11 points on 3-4 from the field including 2-3 from down town.
First half notes: James Michael McAdoo started off cold shooting four of the teams first six shots and starting 0-4 from the field and just 1-4 from the free throw line. After a slow start offensively the Heels got it going behind threes from McDonald, Reggie Bullock and Marcus Paige. The Tar Heels were able to dictate the tempo early in the ball game capitalizing on quick jump shots by Wake to get into transition.
UNC held the lead throughout the first half but failed to put away Wake due to miserable FT shooting 6-13. At the half the Tar Heels led 47-27. UNC did a nice job forcing 13 first half turnovers and getting out in transition. For the most part the defensive effort was good with UNC fighting through screens and covering the passing lanes well. UNC closed out the half on an 11-1 run, a big difference in this team is the focus and determination was still there despite having a big lead.
Paige grabbed six of the teams 17 first half rebounds as UNC held a slim 17-14 advantage on the boards. The Heels hit five of eight from beyond the arc for 62.5% from three and 18-29 (62.1%) overall in a very efficient first half. Reggie Bullock led the way with 12 first half points breaking out of his shooting slump going 4-6 from the field including 2-3 from three.
Second half notes: UNC continued to push the tempo and the intensity was there as they extended the lead behind some heads up plays by McAdoo and Paige. Paige showed that his instincts are starting to take over with a terrific fast break drive in which he split the defenders and went up strong with a crowd around him to score while drawing a foul.
The Tar Heels extended their lead to 27 with ten minutes to play by not letting up and spreading the ball around with 11 players in the scoring column and just two in double digits. This game was over with about 15 minutes left in the game and that was obvious to anyone watching. The greatest thing about tonight was that the Tar Heels actually played as if they couldn’t see the scoreboard. They continued to press the issue on both ends of the floor and played a full 40 minute game and I was impressed with the effort of each and every player on the roster.
The Heels shut down Travis McKie who scored just two points, McKie had scored in double figures in 13 straight. The Tar Heels shot 51% from the field and 60% from three in one of their most efficient offensive performances this season.
Key Takeaways: This team seems to be coming together in every possible way right at the perfect time. Marcus Paige is playing terrific basketball. James Michael McAdoo is playing more controlled, he’s getting to the line and playing his most intense basketball the last three games. Reggie Bullock broke out of his slump, P.J. Hairston returned, Leslie McDonald seems to have knocked off the rust and Dexter Strickland is playing his best defensive basketball of the season.
As a team the Heels are playing together on the defensive end, talking, moving through screens, playing the passing lanes and giving consistent effort. This is the team we need to see against Miami and Duke. At the same time one cannot get too excited about thumping a team like Wake Forest, this is how UNC is supposed to treat teams like this, the real test is right around the corner.
Final Score: UNC 87 Wake 62
Player of the game: Reggie Bullock broke out of his slump in a big way tonight with 23 points on 7-10 shooting, 4-5 from three and three assists. Honorable mention to James Michael McAdoo who finished with 20 and played very well after a slow start.
Up Next: The Tar Heels head into a tough two game road trip to face Miami and Duke.