The Tar Heels faced off against Holy Cross Friday night and pulled out a tough 62-54 win improving to 2-0 on the season. This game was much uglier than expected, especially after the opening game against Oakland. It seemed as if North Carolina continued the slow sluggish play in the second half against Oakland for the entire game against Holy Cross. There were many things you could take away from this game good and bad. It was indeed an ugly win, but in the end it was still a victory for the Tar Heels. Roy Williams and the rest of Tar Heel fans may not be happy with the performance, but the Heels still won.
Here are some key things to take away from this particular game:
James Michael McAdoo must start out well: McAdoo picked up two quick fouls and seemed to never really get into the game. He finished with 11 points on 3-10 shooting and 5-6 from the free throw line, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. James Michael did not seem engaged at any point this game. When your 6’1″ point guard out rebounds the 6’9″ James Michael, something is not right. McAdoo needs to get easy looks early to get himself going. The Tar Heels are going to need him to be big this season.
Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson are stepping up: Marcus Paige took one more step forward to becoming an alpha dog on this Tar Heel team. On a night where shots were not falling and sloppy play, Paige stepped up and led this team to a tough victory. Marcus had 23 points on 8-17 shooting from the field and 44 from the line, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and only turnovers. Paige surpassed his career high 19 points he earned last season against Virginia Tech. Whenever the Tar Heels needed a basket, Paige and Johnson were there. Johnson had 12 points on 6-12 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 assist. Johnson provided some big stops, key rebounds, and energizing baskets. Whenever Brice scored, there was a look of intensity on his face. When he dunked the ball he let out of a scream, doing anything he could to energize the Tar Heels.
Through two games Johnson and Paige have been the most consistent players for the 12th ranked Tar Heels.
Kennedy Meeks and Joel James are still fighting for playing time: James played 14 minutes while Meeks played only 13. For the second game in a row, Meeks seemed to outperform James. In only 13 minutes, Kennedy hauled down 8 rebounds and scored 4 points. Joel had 2 rebounds and 4 points. At this point, if Kennedy keeps up his consistent production it will only be a matter of time before he ends up getting starters minutes. The only thing holding Kennedy back is his stamina. Joel James does not seem to have the basketball IQ so far to be getting big minutes. Both Joel and Kennedy will be called upon this season to perform well on a consistent basis.
The Tar Heels must be better on the glass: North Carolina out rebounded Holy Cross, but only by one. The Tar Heels easily could have out rebounded the Crusaders by much more if they would have boxed out. Holy Cross showed more hustle and wanted the ball more. With the lack of perimeter depth, the front court must rebound and secure the ball better. There multiple instances where the Heels had their hands on the ball and could not secure it. Rebounding is the most important thing to the offense Coach Williams runs. Rebounding starts the break and gets the Tar Heels out in transition. When the ball is not rebounded well the pace is slower, and that is not want Roy Williams wants to do.
J.P. Tokoto can do a bit of everything: Tokoto played well tonight, despite shooting only 2-8 from the field. He finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and only 2 turnovers. JP is continuing to show his improved passing and ball handling skills, as well as his overall basketball I.Q. His defense continues to be solid as well. He hit a midrange jump shot, which will help his confidence continue to grow as a scorer. The Tar Heels will need him to consistently provide a little bit of everything, and if he can improve his scoring, watch out.
The offense needs balance to be successful: With the lack of three point shooting at the moment the offense is very one dimensional. Marcus Paige was the only Tar Heel to make a three pointer against the Crusaders, and he made three. Due to that lack of outside shooting, teams will just pack the paint daring North Carolina to shoot from the outside. Much like 2012-2013, so far this year’s team is an “inside only” team, and some fans would not even go that far yet. A good outside game opens up the inside, and a good inside game opens up the outside. If and when P.J. Hairston and McDonald return, the offense will add the three point shooting it needs to be balanced. Offenses under Williams do best when there is a good balance of inside and outside scoring.
Learning how to win: The quote of, “A good team finds a way to win when it is not playing well,” applies to the win against Holy Cross. North Carolina took another step towards being a good team, despite how ugly the win was. Learning how to win these ugly games will only benefit the Tar Heels. That being said, the Tar Heels would much rather play much better than they did Friday night.
A win is a win, but the Tar Heels need to come out strong each game to get themselves going. The sloppy play must improve, rebounding, defending, and passing all must improve as well. The Heels will regroup, recover, and improve.