CHAPEL HILL There have been lots of great, memorable games in the history of the North Carolina-N.C. State basketball series. The Tar Heels 84-70 victory against the Wolfpack on Saturday wasnt among them. Neither team played all that well, but N.C. State played far, far worse at least in the first half.
As is the tradition in these parts, some thoughts:
THREE THINGS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE TAR HEELS VICTORY:
1. UNC won without its best effort.
Coach Roy Williams has said his team isnt good enough to win without its best effort that the Tar Heels have to maximize their potential to be successful. That still might be true in most cases.
Saturday, though, UNC played sloppily and, in the second half, pretty poorly. Yet the Tar Heels led by double digits for basically the final 35 minutes. They made it look easy against N.C. State, probably because it was.
The Wolfpack was dreadful in the first half, when it made 10 of 40 shots from the field and looked lost offensively. N.C. State simply didnt challenge UNC early, and the Wolfpack never recovered. The Tar Heels werent at their best, but they didnt need to be to beat a neighborhood rival by 14 points. Thats a good sign for UNC.
2. James Michael McAdoo continues to be an early tone-setter for the Tar Heels.
Statistically, this wasnt one of McAdoos better games offensively. He made four of 15 attempts from the field, and he struggled again at times from the free-throw line, where he made eight of 14.
Still, McAdoo again set the tone early with his aggressiveness and effort. He took the ball to the basket on UNCs first possession and drew a shooting foul eight seconds into the game. On UNCs third possession, he did the same thing, and then again on the fifth possession.
Two minutes, 16 seconds into the game, McAdoo had drawn three shooting fouls. He went 3-for-6 from the line on those trips but, still, his aggressiveness early seemed to send a message and set the agenda: UNC was the aggressor throughout the first half, while the Wolfpack seemed to play timidly at times.
3. Might the Tar Heels be making their free-throw woes a thing of the past?
I asked Williams on Friday, after UNC made 13 of its final 15 free throws at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, about whether he thought the Tar Heels had turned a corner with free-throw shooting. No, he said.
Clearly, UNCs strong finish at the line against the Yellow Jackets did little to convince Williams his team suddenly had become a good free-throw shooting team. UNC did it again Saturday, though. The Tar Heels went 25 of 33 from the line 75.8 percent and they made 15 of 17 in the second half.
That helped UNC keep a comfortable margin throughout the second half, even while it shot poorly and N.C. State improved. Williams said he was ecstatic by the free-throw shooting in the second half, and back-to-back strong games at the line have to help his teams confidence there, too.
Words to remember
It (was) a great opportunity for us, especially coming in the positions that both teams were in. We both needed this win. But its a great day to be a Tar Heel.
The Tar Heels (14-7, 4-4) will host Maryland on at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Smith Center. This will be the final time UNC and Maryland meet in the regular season as ACC opponents. Maryland is leaving the league to join the Big Ten next season. Maryland (13-9, 5-4) has won two consecutive league games and four of its past five.
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