Sometimes it takes more than talent or a great shooting day to overcome a poor start. North Carolina came into its game against Boston College with a new-look starting five and a refreshed style of play. All of that led to UNC’s first ACC victory of the season — 82-71 over the Eagles — at the Dean Dome Saturday.
Jackson Simmons and Leslie McDonald were inserted into the first five by coach Roy Williams, and both players displayed energy that was desperately needed for a UNC club that started 0-3 in ACC play. The Tar Heels were a little sluggish at first, but the consistent play of James Michael McAdoo continued as he scored the first six points for North Carolina. His aggressiveness obviously carried over to everyone else. The team was chasing the ball on the floor, tipping out and grabbing offensive rebounds and attacking the rim with a vigor not seen in conference play until Saturday. This brought enthusiasm to the court and Carolina — after falling down 7-4 — went on a 18-4 run midway through the first-half. BC stayed close for much of the game, but that first-half run gave the Tar Heels enough of a cushion to remain in front.
Marcus Paige once again looked like the player who was an early season candidate for ACC Player of the Year. Paige banged in a three-pointer off an offensive rebound and then glided into the paint with a nifty floater to set the tone early. Paige is the team’s best outside shooter, but it was his ability to force defenders to guard him too closely which allowed him to turn the corner and score on layups. This will be key for Paige the rest of the season. He needs to attack the hoop more and force defenders to respect everything he can do. Paige did this several times en route to his 21 points Saturday.
McAdoo has been the team’s most efficient player in ACC play, and his overall solid play continued to be on display against the Eagles. McAdoo’s scoring early helped keep the game close, and his defense allowed Carolina to grab long rebounds and run the court. McAdoo is now a real threat to become an all-ACC player. He is a great post player who can hit turnaround jumpers or use head fakes to get to the basket. McAdoo finished with 17 points and three blocks against BC.
Still, North Carolina does not have the same confidence it had earlier this season. The team cannot hit threes or free-throws consistently, turns the ball over too much, leaves open shots on defense and needs a third scorer. The Tar Heels picked up a win it clearly needed, but there is still a lot to work on in Chapel Hill.
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