Who's tired? UNC throttles Wake for 4th win in 8 days
Playing its fourth game in eight days — and just 36 hours after finishing off an emotional win against No. 5 Duke — North Carolina may have been primed for a letdown Saturday against Wake Forest.
Instead, fatigue was trumped by more important factors — avenging an earlier loss to the Demon Deacons and continuing the recent progress that the team has made.
UNC crushed Wake Forest 105-72, shooting 57 percent from the field, 73 percent from behind the arc and 83 percent from the free throw line en route to its ninth straight win and its first 100-point game of the season.
“I told them, I think it would be easy for me if someone beat my rear end last time,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “I wouldn’t have any problem with four games in eight days or eight games in four days, I’d be ready to play their rear ends. … They whacked us the last time.”
Williams recited the numbers from the conference-opening loss in Winston-Salem: 21 lay-ups and 46 points in the paint for Wake Forest, 17 turnovers committed by UNC.
Now the Tar Heels (20-7, 10-4 ACC) can remember this year’s series by some new numbers — the most points against a Division I opponent since 2011 and the biggest margin of victory in an ACC game since 2008.
“I think it just means we’re focused,” point guard Marcus Paige said. “We understand that we had a chance to get a day of rest after this game, but we had to complete the streak. Coach said it’s not special to go four games in eight days unless you win them all. … It was a great way to end this tough stretch.”
The Tar Heels, who were last in the ACC in 3-pointers (99), set a school record for 3-point percentage (10 or more attempts) since 1986-87, when the 3-point line was moved back. Senior Leslie McDonald went 5 for 6 from behind the arc, Paige went 3 for 5 and senior walk-on Wade Moody went 2 for 2 to eclipse his career total of five points in 22 previous games as the team went 11 for 15 from long range.
The Tar Heels also made their first 11 free throws after making 10 in a row to close out the Duke game.
“The ball went in the basket and we made free throws,” Williams said. “It’s amazing that you have the legs and the whole thing for doing that in four games in eight days.”
Of course, playing Wake Forest also helped. The Demon Deacons (14-13, 4-10) have lost seven in a row and fell to 1-8 on the road, with the only away win coming at last-place Virginia Tech.
Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik said that UNC’s confidence is the biggest different between the team that lost in Winston-Salem seven weeks ago and the one that is now on a nine-game winning streak.
“Confidence is such a big thing is any sport, at any level, with any athlete,” Bzdelik said.
Playing in 1980’s-style throwback uniforms, UNC looked like a vintage team Saturday, running and scoring seemingly at will against a deflated opponent. Six players reached double figures, with McDonald (19 points) leading the team in scoring for the second straight game.
“I enjoyed the Duke game that whole night,” said McDonald, who had 21 against the Blue Devils. “But that next day, I had to cut it off. That was a win for us, but that day is dead and gone. We had to get ready for Wake Forest.”
The Tar Heels used a 19-3 run to go up by 19 with 6:19 left in the first half. The Demon Deacons got as close as 13 with 16 minutes to play, but UNC responded with a 22-6 run to end any suspense.
The blowout gave Williams a chance to rest his starters — Paige played a season-low 28 minutes, while forward James Michael McAdoo was in for 19.
Williams said he only had 45 minutes of action in practice Friday, and the team will have Sunday off to recuperate from an exhausting week. The Tar Heels won’t play again until Wednesday night at N.C. State.
“It’s been a tough one,” McDonald said. “It’s been a toll on our bodies, but I really appreciate my teammates and my coaching staff. We’ve been able to pull it together and come out with all these wins. We’re not going to stop right now, either. We’re going to continue to play our game and get more.”
|NORTH CAROLINA 105, WAKE FOREST 72|
Percentages: FG .491, FT .545.
3-Point Goals: 6-12, .500 (Williams 3-4, Cavanaugh 2-4, McKie 1-3, Miller-McIntyre 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 1 (Thomas).
Turnovers: 14 (Adala Moto 4, McKie 3, Miller-McIntyre 3, Jones 2, Overton, Thomas).
Steals: 4 (Jones, Adala Moto, Cavanaugh, Rountree III).
Technical Fouls: Cavanaugh.
Percentages: FG .574, FT .828.
3-Point Goals: 11-15, .733 (McDonald 5-6, Paige 3-5, Moody 2-2, Britt 1-1, Manor 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 6.
Blocked Shots: 3 (McAdoo, Britt, James).
Turnovers: 10 (Johnson 4, Britt 2, Meeks, Davis, McDonald, McAdoo).
Steals: 5 (Paige 2, Tokoto, Johnson, McDonald).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Les Jones, Ray Natili, Dwayne Gladden.