Finally, the North Carolina Tar Heels beat an unranked team without a scare late in the game. Although it was not a complete blowout, the Tar Heels defeated Northern Kentucky by the score of 75-60, but as always, they could have done a lot better. Instead of focusing on what the team could have done, I’ll focus on what the team did do.
They started off the game with the momentum and confidence that everyone has been looking for since the start of the season. They jumped out to a quick double-digit lead behind Leslie McDonald‘s three-straight three-pointers, and big men James Michael McAdoo and Brice Johnson played very solid defense. With Northern Kentucky’s tallest player, Jalen Billups, only standing at 6-foot-6, it was already assumed that the two would dominate throughout the entire game. Although they did not dominate much on the scoring end, they finally solidified some sort of effective frontcourt.
Although Marcus Paige did not have a stellar scoring or assist game, he came down with nine rebounds and held down the Tar Heels’ backcourt. As a matter of fact, no player on the team had a stellar scoring game, but it was a balanced attack that was much needed. There were only three players in the lineup in double-digits, but it was an overall team effort that allowed them to get the win.
Most astonishing of all, the team shot close to 70 percent from the charity stripe. Free throw shooting has been the team’s kryptonite thus far in the season, and it was vital that they fixed this issue before they head to Wake Forest for their ACC opener on Jan. 5. Although the fact that McAdoo only shot eight free throws may have severely helped the team’s overall percentage, he did only miss two throughout the entire game. During their ACC schedule, the Tar Heels hope that McAdoo does not get to the free throw line often, but it is very relieving to see that the few times he did get there during the Northern Kentucky game, he was effective.
As said before, McDonald began the game hot from behind the ark, which Tar Heel fans have been waiting for ever since he was reinstated last week. The team as a whole shot 42.9 percent from three-point range, but it was nice to see that the team was not afraid to let the long ball go.
The Tar Heels have one non-conference game left on the schedule against North Carolina-Wilmington on New Years Eve, and they need to carry the momentum from this game into the next. Hopefully, the team can pull out another double-digit victory, thus sending them into the ACC part of their schedule with confidence.