North Carolina may need a strong start in a game more than any other team, and usually it’s the offense that sparks the run. This was not the case in the Tar Heels’ 84-70 drubbing of North Carolina State at the Dean Dome Saturday.
Coach Roy Williams‘ defense was the difference as the team forced 12 turnovers. This defensive showcase came because of the team’s willingness to play defense. N.C. State went at the hoop early because coach Mark Gottfried probably saw in the tape how passive and weak the interior defense has been for North Carolina in conference play. However, the Tar Heels were up to the challenge.
Not only were shots getting blocked, but they were extremely difficult to get off. The Wolfpacks players were becoming so nervous of being blocked that two players missed wide-open layups near the end of the first half.
Carolina took full advantage of this stout defensive effort and used it to ignite the offense. Marcus Paige was flying down the court and either going to the hoop or finding someone open for an easy bucket. James Michael McAdoo aggressively attacked the paint so well that he was forcing double-teams on the perimeter.
This tactic worked right into the Tar Heels’ plan, and many players were open as UNC left the first 20 minutes with a 17-point lead. McAdoo (16), Paige (15) and Leslie McDonald (20) all scored in double-figures. Kennedy Meeks tallied eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
This carried over in the second half as the Heels rolled. North Carolina is back to .500 in the league and looking way more confident than it did earlier this season. N.C. State was held to only 40 percent shooting for the game. If the Tar Heels can continue to build on its last three victories, they will once again become the threat in the ACC many considered they were in December.
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