North Carolina: Succesful in Key Aspects to Start Off the Season

By Anthony Lenahan
Jeff Curry-US Presswire

While North Carolina has a lot that they need to improve on after their first game, they also have multiple things they did really well.

In the Tar Heels season opener, they showed a lot of signs of success.  UNC did multiple things extremely well in their victory, to make many Heels fans excited for the rest of the season.

One thing they did and had to do was win.  You always need to start out the season with a victory and the Tar Heels did just that.

Coming into the season no one knew how Carolina’s freshmen would play.  Everyone knew they were talented, but would they be able to succeed at such a high level.

Roy Williams and the Carolina fans have to be extremely happy with what they saw out of the freshmen last night.  Marcus Paige, Joel James, Brice Johnson, and J.P. Tokoto all played over 10 minutes in their first collegiate game Friday night.

Paige was the lone starter out of the 4 freshmen.  Trying to replace Kendall Marshall, Paige did not impress many last night.  He was the only freshmen to disappoint Heels fans with his performance.  On the bright side, he did show that he could create his own shots and score points.

James, Johnson, and Tokoto all looked good against Gardener-Webb.  James and Johnson both fell short of the final starting spot to Desmond Hubert.

After both of their performances last night, that might change.  Johnson, who is known to be a great scorer, put up 6 points on 3-6 shooting.  He was also able to grab 5 rebounds in just 12 minutes of playing time.

James was one of the first 2 off the bench for Roy Williams.  He had to deal with foul trouble the whole game so he only saw 14 minutes of action.  In those 14 minutes he was able to go 3-3 from the field accounting for 6 points.  James also grabbed 4 rebounds and had a steal and an assist.  His numbers don’t jump out at you, but James was very effective in the game last night and will help out the Heels a lot down low.

Tokoto came in late off the bench for Coach Williams.  One of the last significant players for the Tar Heels, Tokoto saw 10 minutes of action.  Early Tokoto looked a little lost on the court, but he was able to score 6 points on 3-4 shooting and grab 2 rebounds.  We also got to see his first dunk of many to come from the exciting high riser.

The 3 freshmen coming off the bench were able to score 18 of the teams’ 26 bench points on 9-13 shooting.  If these 3 freshmen can continue this the rest of the season the Heels will be a team to look out for.

With all of the stars gone, all eyes are on James Michael McAdoo and boy was he impressive Friday night.  He shut up all the doubters and showed he is going to step up and lead this team.

McAdoo scored 26 points (career high) on 10 of 20 shooting.  He also grabbed 14 rebounds (8 offensive) to go along with a steal and a block.

McAdoo will need to continue to put up these numbers consistently as the Heels go to player.  He showed he was willing to be “the man” and also showed he could be “the man” with his performance.

A team that was No. 1 in rebounding last year had a lot of shoes to fill to maintain that statistic this season.  Averaging 45 rebounds per game last year, the Tar Heels were able to grab 48 rebounds on Friday.

This is a great sign for the Heels.  With McAdoo and wing man Reggie Bullock leading the away rebounding, many other players contributed with 4, 5, or 6 rebounds.

Carolina out rebounded the Bulldogs by 17 rebounds and was also able to grab 21 offensive rebounds.  Second chance points will be a major factor for this young Carolina team.

Roy Williams knew this team would have to play defense if they wanted to win.  Holding Gardener-Webb to 59 points is a good start.

Holding the Bulldogs to just 40% shooting is even better.  If you can hold a team to 40% or below, you give yourself a great opportunity to win that game.

Where the defense was really impressive was forcing turnovers.  The Heels forced the Bulldogs to commit 21 turnovers.  As a team who likes to score in transition, this is vital.  Forcing turnovers gives Carolina an opportunity to get out and run and do what they do best every year.

Bullock and Dexter Strickland led the way with 3 steals each and as a team, Carolina was able to come up with 12 steals leading to many fast break points.

After one game Carolina has to be happy with what they saw in these 4 aspects of the game.  Hopefully then can continue to play well in these aspects and improve on the other things to become a legitimate title contender this season.

Carolina looks to keep up their success against Florida Atlantic on Sunday at 2:30.


You Can follow Anthony Lenahan on twitter @On_The_Hardwood


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