North Carolina senior guard Leslie McDonald already had a tough task this season after coming off of suspension and rejoining the Tar Heels 10 games in. He also had to adjust to playing without P.J. Hairston and with an entirely different starting five from last season.
McDonald had a few moments early in the season — including 15 points in his first game back against Texas — but usually looked a little bit off. He went through a four-game stretch at the beginning of January where he scored in double figures once and made at most three field goals in a game. This translated to North Carolina losing three of those games and being in a funk as a team.
Then McDonald started turning it around and so did the Tar Heels. Since losing to Virginia, McDonald has been a completely different looking player and it has reflected in how the entire team has played. McDonald is averaging 13.5 points per game during those games, but what stands out even more is his hustle. This was very clear in UNC’s last game against Maryland on Tuesday. With less than one minute remaining and the victory well in hand, a loose ball slipped away from Maryland and McDonald went scrambling after it. He slid to the floor and showed exactly how important it is to wear North Carolina blue.
It may not have stood out to a casual fan and announcers probably will not point something like that out with the clocking ticking down, but hustle like that will show up in the tape and could be the reason North Carolina rises from the being declared dead in January to being a tough out come NCAA tournament time.
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