North Carolina Clearly Misses P.J. Hairston, Leslie McDonald

By Gregory Philson
Brice Johnson
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina may have walked away with a 62-54 victory over Holy Cross at the Dean E. Smith Center Friday, but the Tar Heels showed they desperately need senior guard Leslie McDonald and junior forward P.J. Hairston back soon.

UNC played a sluggish first half against HC. Poor shot selection, bad passing and odd decisions littered the first 20 minutes. Holy Cross managed to even up the game at 25-all at the break. UNC pulled away in the second half, but the offense could not completely shove aside Holy Cross.

The Tar Heels moved to 2-0, but the lack of offense shined through. This places a lot of pressure on sophomores J.P. TokotoBrice Johnson and Joel James, as well as freshmen Nate Britt and Kennedy Meeks to mature.

This is where sophomore point guard Marcus Paige needs to come in. Paige has become more aggressive on offense this season. He registered a career-high 23 points, five rebounds and three assists against the Crusaders Friday. He also hit game-sealing free throws down the stretch. However, Paige needs to play the PG-spot in coach Roy Williams‘ system. He must find the younger players when they are open so they can build confidence. He has the court vision and passing skill to do this. Paige has all the makings to be a leader on this team. He must prove he wants to be one.

James Michael McAdoo also must become more consistent. McAdoo has been given plenty of grief over his first two seasons for not living up to the hype. He needs to stop listening to the naysayers and become a player other teams fear. McAdoo will show glimpses of brilliant play when he hits a baseline 15-footer on the offensive end and then leaps for a block on defense. However, he will just as quickly get lost in the offensive shuffle and play slow defense.

In the post, Johnson and James must become more of a presence. Johnson put on a show when he hit an array of baby hooks and made a leaping block during a three-minute stretch against Holy Cross. James has the size, but needs to learn how to use it. Freshmen big-man Meeks falls into the same category. Meeks is very raw and could develop into a powerful player as soon as the middle of the season.

Regardless of who becomes more of a scorer, UNC definitely needs help anywhere it can find on offense. If an answer is not found — and Hairston and McDonald do not return —  Carolina will struggle all season.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC basketball writer for Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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