Somehow the North Carolina Tar Heels managed to extend their win streak to seven games last night against Florida State on the road by the score of 81-75. Although the game started out brutal for the Tar Heels, they held onto their momentum, regained a sense of urgency and played hard throughout in order to come out victorious.
Florida State jumped out to a quick 21-6 lead in the beginning of the first half, leaving the Tar Heels completely out of the game physically and mentally. They were committing stupid turnovers, missing just about every shot that went up and they looked like the Tar Heels team that began ACC play 0-3. I honestly believed that this whole win streak was just a phase that was coming to a brutal end, but then the team surprised me once again just like they have been doing all season.
Kennedy Meeks was phenomenal throughout the entire game, leading the team in scoring with 23 points. He has been in a slump as of late, so it was great to see that he finally woke up and started playing the way he did in the beginning of the win streak. Brice Johnson was also stellar in the frontcourt, scoring 14 points off the bench and leading the team in rebounding with 11. He was a threat on both ends of the court, and he never let down his own momentum no matter how many points the Tar Heels were losing by.
It is very rare that I mention the Tar Heels’ frontcourt without mentioning James Michael McAdoo first, but he really did not even play last night. He got into serious foul trouble really early in the game, and he ended up fouling out with zero points and only 13 minutes of playing time. In my last article previewing this game, I stated how McAdoo could not afford to have a letdown game considering his stellar performances in the previous six games of the streak. Well, he had his worst game of the entire season, and he does not have much time to pick himself back up for the Tar Heels’ most important matchup of the season against Duke.
On the bright side, Marcus Paige continued his own hot streak and cashed in 20 points of his own to keep the Tar Heels in the game. He was the only player in the team’s backcourt to put up significant numbers, because Leslie McDonald was once again cold from beyond the arc. He is supposed to be the best shooter on the Tar Heels’ roster, but he has failed to get any type of shooting game going throughout the entire season. If the team plans to defeat Duke on Thursday and make a run in March, then Paige cannot be the only scorer in the backcourt.
The key to the Tar Heels defeating Duke will be defending their terrific three-point shooting game which the team failed to do last night against the Seminoles. Ian Miller was left open way too many times on the perimeter, and he was the main reason why the Tar Heels fell behind in the first half. He scored 15 of his 22 points from beyond the arc, and most of his shots were uncontested. Luckily, all of the Seminoles’ players got cold later in the game, so the Tar Heels took advantage and put together a solid scoring performance of their own.
If I were head coach Roy Williams, I would not be happy with the team’s performance last night at all. Momentum was lost throughout a majority of the game, and it was a must-win game in order to be fully prepared for Duke in a few days. The Tar Heels need to embrace the fact that they did win the game, but at the same time they must correct all of the mistakes they made last night before Thursday.