Either the North Carolina Tar Heels finally woke up, or Roy Williams put an entire new team on the court tonight against Clemson, because this team was nothing short of stellar. Well, it was the same team that was 1-4 in the ACC coming into tonight’s game, but they did not play the same way that they have been as of late. The Tar Heels completely embarrassed Clemson by a score of 80-61. Right off the tip, they dominated them on both ends of the court. This was a huge statement victory for the young and struggling Tar Heel team, but it was exactly what they needed to get back on track in the ACC.
Throughout their entire ACC schedule thus far, Williams was in search of some sense of urgency out of his time, and he finally found it today. They were diving all over the court for loose balls, driving to the rim and finishing through contact, and not one player was in serious foul trouble. James Michael McAdoo led the team with 22 points, and further proved that he is this team’s backbone. He played out of his mind, to say the least, and did anything and everything he could do to help the Tar Heels come out with a W. Marcus Paige struggled to score to begin the game, but he lit it up in the second half to finish with a solid 15 points. If McAdoo and Paige can continue to put up double-digits, then I would love to see a team in the ACC try and stop the Tar Heels. Leslie McDonald received yet another start tonight, but did not have yet another off game. He made two shots from beyond the ark, and finished with 12 points to help the Tar Heels in the backcourt. Another huge part of this victory was Kennedy Meeks, a freshman that has played like a veteran in conference play despite his team’s struggle. He had another double-digit game with 11 points, and he led the team with 8 rebounds. The Tar Heels are 6-1 this season when Meeks scores double-digits, and he is proving to the college basketball community that he can and will be a star in future seasons.
The Tar Heels held Clemson’s leading scorer, K.J. McDaniels, to just 13 points, and they held second leading scorer Rod Hall to just six. Coming into the game, we all knew that defense would be a huge key to victory, and the Tar Heels executed almost perfectly. As of late, the team struggled with rebounding, but they managed to outrebound Clemson 38-31. Another staggering stat of the game was the team’s assist total, which was 19. The Tar Heels had terrific off-ball movement and they took advantage of several mismatches in the frontcourt. If they could have just made their free throws, then this game would be a perfect example of how the Tar Heels need to play in order to be relevant coming March.
Today, we saw the Tar Heel team that defeated Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky. We finally saw the Tar Heel team that had been hibernating since ACC play began, and the team that could do some serious damage in the NCAA tournament. They played real North Carolina basketball against Clemson, and if they can keep this up, and hold on to this momentum, then I would not want to be any opposing team. In a season filled with inconsistency and disappointment, this win may have livened up Tar Heel country.