UNC holds off No. 25 Pitt in 1st ACC meeting at Smith Center
North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo didn’t look like himself during the Tar Heels’ 75-71 win over No. 25 Pittsburgh in the Smith Center on Saturday.
McAdoo could have gone for a haircut and a shave.
He instead went for 24 points and a dozen rebounds, both game highs.
“This is the James Michael McAdoo that we need. He’s one of the best players in the country when he does this,” UNC point guard Marcus Paige said.
The unranked Tar Heels did it with defense, particularly in the second half when the Panthers shot 37.8 percent from the field, down from 44.4 percent during the first 20 minutes.
“We came here to out-rebound them, and we didn’t,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We had more turnovers than they did, and those were the two things we said that we had to do.”
Pitt still had a chance at a 3-point shot to tie the contest with 9.1 seconds left.
Lamar Patterson, who has emerged into a candidate for national player of the year, is Pitt’s go-to guy, and the Panthers got the ball both in his hands and behind the arc.
“We called a play, got a wide-open 3 down the stretch,” Dixon said.
“Lamar, he had a great look, and I’ve seen that shot go in a lot of times, and I’ve been on both ends of that,” McAdoo said.
Patterson missed. UNC’s Brice Johnson (13 points, 7 rebounds) ended up with the ball and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 free throws, making it a two-possession game and effectively ending Pitt’s hopes.
Sophomore J.P. Tokoto and Isaiah Hicks, a freshman who led Oxford’s Webb High School to the 3-A championship last season, were largely responsible for defending Patterson.
“He’s one of the most complete players I think there is in college basketball,” UNC coach Roy Williams said of Patterson.
Patterson had 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals, but early foul trouble put him on the bench in the first half.
Meanwhile, Johnson was patrolling the paint for UNC.
“Those five blocked shots were huge,” Williams said.
But nobody played bigger than McAdoo. The tear he went on toward the end of the first half set a tone.
“He just took over the game,” Paige said.
McAdoo (6-9, 230) was an animal around the rim and active away from it, plucking the ball from Pitt guard James Robinson and running to the rim for a dunk that tied the game 27-27 with 5:39 left in the first half.
UNC took a 29-27 lead when Nate Britt fed McAdoo in stride for a slam.
Pitt closed the gap with two free throws from Robinson.
UNC got four points in a hurry when Paige was fouled while making a 3-pointer. His free throw gave the Tar Heels a 33-29 lead.
Then Pitt got a little more McAdoo, who finessed a layup to put the Tar Heels up 35-31.
Former UNC point guard Kendall Marshall, among the who’s who at the Smith Center, tweeted during the game that McAdoo changes his style about every month and now has a James Worthy look going on.
McAdoo’s beard hasn’t fully arrived, but his game is filling out nicely. He’s not just a dunker these days. He doesn’t have to finish at the rim. When he’s knocking down 15-foot jumpers like he did against Pitt, it spreads the defense for open looks for other Tar Heels, Paige said.
Tokoto said McAdoo understands that he is a priority on offense and is ready to score when he gets the ball.
McAdoo said his sister told him he’d get out of his funk by just going out there on the floor and having fun. The junior from Norfolk, Va., said it’s not like he was stressed out in prior games, but “I wasn’t playing to my capabilities.”
There is a sense of urgency among the Tar Heels. That was the postgame sentiment from UNC. McAdoo said he took it upon himself as one of the elder statesmen of the team to turn around a season that was going the wrong way.
UNC has gone from 15th place in the Atlantic Coast Conference to fourth, and the win against Pitt (20-6, 8-5 ACC) was the sixth straight for the Tar Heels (17-7, 7-4 ACC).
When the Tar Heels were struggling, Williams told them that he’s never had a team quit on him, McAdoo said.
“We weren’t going to be that team,” McAdoo said.
“I just think we’ve grown up a little bit and understood after those couple of really tough losses early,” Paige said. “They were kind of devastating for us. We knew we had to make a change, otherwise our season would have been not the way it is right now.”
Paige (18 points, 4 assists) said McAdoo’s really been getting after it lately, becoming more focused.
“It’s kind of contagious,” Paige said about McAdoo’s sweat equity. “He’s playing outstanding right now, and we’re going to keep riding his production all the way through.”
NOTES — Former UNC forwards Tyler Hansbrough and Sean May, in addition to Marshall, watched UNC beat Pitt. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith was there, too.
|NORTH CAROLINA 75, No. 25 PITTSBURGH 71|
Percentages: FG .406, FT .652.
3-Point Goals: 4-15, .267 (Patterson 3-9, Jones 1-2, Robinson 0-2, Artis 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 6.
Blocked Shots: 4 (Zanna 2, Robinson, Patterson).
Turnovers: 14 (Robinson 4, Wright 3, Jones 2, Young 2, Patterson, Newkirk, Zanna).
Steals: 11 (Patterson 4, Wright 2, Robinson 2, Artis, Newkirk, Young).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .443, FT .600.
3-Point Goals: 6-14, .429 (Paige 5-6, McDonald 1-6, Britt 0-1, Tokoto 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 9 (Johnson 5, Hicks 2, Meeks, Hubert).
Turnovers: 13 (Tokoto 4, Paige 4, Meeks, Hicks, Britt, James, McAdoo).
Steals: 7 (Paige 4, Tokoto 2, McAdoo).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Karl Hess, Raymond Styons, Tim Kelly.