With their 84-70 victory over bitter in-state rival North Carolina State, the Tar Heels moved to 4-4 in the conference and 14-7 on the season. There was not one point throughout the game where there was any doubt that the Tar Heels would come out victorious, and they further proved that they have the upper hand against NC State, who has yet to win a game in Chapel Hill with Roy Williams coaching the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels are a brand new team, and this is now a brand new season.
This was an all-around team victory today, but there were a few players that stood out. First off, Leslie McDonald lead the team in scoring with 20 points, and he was a force from both outside the arc and at the rim. James Michael McAdoo had yet another double-double, scoring 16 points along with 13 boards. NC State had no answer for McAdoo when he drove to the rim and even when he was fouled, his free throw shooting was not as horrible as usual.
Marcus Paige was stellar throughout the entire game, and did not have a slow start like he has in recent games. He finished with 15 points, but it would have been nice to see him knock down a three or two. Kennedy Meeks once again had a stellar game in terms of rebounding, finishing with 10 total, and he also finished with a solid eight points.
Another key factor in the Tar Heels’ frontcourt was Brice Johnson coming off the bench. He finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, and he was perfect from the charity stripe.
Defensively, the Tar Heels struggled a bit to contain NC State’s leading scorer T.J. Warren, who finished the game with 21 points, but it was still not enough to make the game close. The Tar Heels out-rebounded the Wolfpack 52-38, and a key part of their victory was capitalizing on all of the second chances they received. They came down with 22 offensive rebounds throughout the game, and they really made NC State pay the price as a result.
For maybe the first time all season, the Tar Heels can say that their free throw shooting helped them out tremendously in a victory. They shot 75.8 percent from the line, and not one player aside from McAdoo missed more than one free throw.
Every single player on the Tar Heels’ roster contributed something special to today’s victory, but the most important contribution was their sense of urgency. They were diving all over the court for loose balls, sprinting up and down the court in transition, and they were not afraid to attack the rim and finish through contact. The Tar Heels now have more momentum than they ever had before, and I would not want to be their opponent if they maintain this intensity.
This is not the same Tar Heels team that we saw in the beginning of ACC play, but one that can go above and beyond their projected expectations. They take the court again on Tuesday against Maryland at home, and if they continue to play with this outstanding amount of momentum, confidence and intensity, then this win streak is a long ways away from its conclusion.