Up-and-down Heels show no let-up against UNCG
The North Carolina team that was supposed to beat UNC Greensboro on Saturday actually showed up and handled its business with an 81-50 win over the Spartans in the Smith Center.
UNC has been up and down this season, losing against Belmont and then beating then-No. 3 Louisville, and the Tar Heels dropped one at UAB before getting on the floor for their next game against then-No.1 Michigan State and walking off with a win.
That pattern wasn’t lost on the Tar Heels, UNC sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto said.
“It was definitely a big focus for us,” Tokoto said. “We didn’t want to come out lackadaisical like the UAB game, where we just took them lightly and they just punched us in the mouth.”
Focus, focus, focus — that was the deal against UNCG, UNC sophomore forward Brice Johnson said.
“It just seemed like we weren’t focused after the Louisville game,” Johnson said. “We were like, we can’t keep doing that. We have to play up to our standards.”
UNC coach Roy Williams admitted to having some worry about another let down by his ball club. He said he’s been preaching to his guys about keeping the intensity, about concentrating.
“I think we did that in the first half,” Williams said.
UNC locked down so hard on UNCG that the Spartans didn’t make a single field goal from the 8:22 mark in the first half until the teams got after it again for the final 20 minutes.
“That was really the basketball game,” Williams said.
UNC point guard Marcus Paige impacted the game with his offense during the first 20 minutes, leading all scorers with 12 points at halftime. He was a force, adding five assists and four rebounds to his point production.
Paige didn’t score after halftime, but he was effective on the dish with three more assists, and his lone turnover in the second half was the only time he lost the ball all game.
“We like that passing,” Williams said.
Five Tar Heels scored in double figures. Johnson (14 points) and James Michael McAdoo (13) were the leading scorers for the Tar Heels, while freshman big man Kennedy Meeks used his soft hands to net 12 points and pull down eight rebounds.
“Offensively, he can do some good things — he really can,” Williams said about Meeks.
“He’s got to keep working on his body, because he needs to be explosive, and he’s not explosive in there.”
Meeks (6-9, 290) needs to work on his defense, too, Williams said.
“But offensively, he really helps us,” Williams said.
Meeks has slimmed down, and that’s made a difference in his game, Tokoto said.
“The weight that he dropped clearly has helped him a lot, you know, getting up and down the court,” Tokoto said. “Down in the post, he still has that weight, so he uses it very well, spinning off guys and getting other people in the air and finishing through contact.
The Tar Heels and Spartans never had gotten together for hoops until Saturday night, and UNCG coach Wes Miller was making his first return as a head coach to the arena in which he once played for Williams.
“I told him I was not going to look down at his bench because I didn’t want to know that he was coaching,” Williams said.
The sentiment was mutual.
“I told Coach before the game, this was the first time that I ever truly loved the person that I’m playing against on the other end of the bench,” Miller said. “I didn’t look down there one time. I couldn’t look at him, because that was really awkward.”
UNCG assistant coach Jackie Manuel and UNCG director of basketball operations J.B. Tanner also played for Williams.
Former Person High School forward Tyrone Outlaw Jr., a UNCG freshman, got 14 quality minutes in the first half but wasn’t very productive — neither were his teammates.
The Tar Heels took a 44-14 lead into halftime on 47.2 percent shooting from the field. UNCG didn’t shoot it altogether awful in the first half, but the Spartans’ 28.6 percentage certainly wasn’t helped by their 15 turnovers that UNC turned into 20 points.
Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in the second half.
Former Webb High School forward Isaiah Hicks, a UNC freshman, checked into the game with 6:45 left in he first half.
Outlaw (9 points) contested a short jumper by Hicks, who missed it. Those two used to battle each other in high school.
In the second half, Hicks (5 points), a bit beefier than he was in high school, showed that he still has a soft touch from the foul line.
UNC began to pull away from UNCG with 7:11 left in the first half after McAdoo swiped the basketball from a Spartan and dunked it to give the Tar Heels a 22-13 lead.
|NORTH CAROLINA 81, UNC G 50|
Percentages: FG .408, FT .538.
3-Point Goals: 3-14, .214 (Outlaw 2-3, Paulos 1-6, Parker 0-1, Baldwin 0-2, Locke 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Saddler, Paulos).
Turnovers: 21 (Saddler 8, Potts 3, Cain 3, White 3, Locke 2, Baldwin, Outlaw).
Steals: 3 (Potts, Outlaw, Baldwin).
Technical Fouls: Saddler.
Percentages: FG .485, FT .615.
3-Point Goals: 1-6, .167 (Paige 1-4, Britt 0-1, McAdoo 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 6.
Blocked Shots: 3 (McAdoo 2, Meeks).
Turnovers: 13 (Britt 4, Tokoto 2, James, Paige, Moody, Robinson, McAdoo, Simmons, Johnson).
Steals: 6 (McAdoo 3, Johnson, Tokoto, Paige).
Technical Fouls: None.