James Michael McAdoo (above) and Reggie Bullock (not pictured) led North Carolina on Saturday against Maryland. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — It’d be difficult to find a game with a pair of halves that were more contrasting than the one today was for North Carolina. The Tar Heels played their best half of the season during the first 20 minutes of their 62-52 victory against Maryland. And then came the second half.
Here's the story of UNC's victory. And the look back:
Three things to take away from the Tar Heels’ victory:
1. The first half was one to remember.
North Carolina played its strongest half of the season during the first 20 minutes. There was a lot to like about how the Tar Heels played. Defensively, they forced 15 turnovers, held Maryland to 33.3 percent shooting and limited Terrapins center Alex Len to just four points. On offense, UNC played efficiently and took advantage of its scoring chances. It helped that Reggie Bullock outscored Maryland by himself during the first half, 21-20. The Heels shot 48.4 percent in the first half, which would be good against any team but especially so against the Terps, who entered Saturday with the third-best field goal percent defense in the nation. If only UNC could keep it up. Because …
2. The second half was one to forget.
At least UNC played well in the first half. Neither team played well in the second, but it was especially ugly for the Tar Heels. They played like a team who’d built a 42-20 halftime lead, and thought the game ended at halftime. And in some respects, UNC was right. Maryland made things somewhat interesting, but it never cut the Heels’ lead into single digits. The Heels scored 20 points during the second half – one fewer than Bullock had by himself in the first half – while UNC shot just 23.5 percent during the second 20. After dominating in all aspects during the first half, UNC struggled in all aspects during the second half.
3. Finally, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo played well together in the same game.
For UNC to reach its potential, Bullock and McAdoo need to play well night in and night out. Which means they need to play well together, in the same games. That hasn’t happened all that often this season, but it did on Saturday. Bullock finished with a career-high 24 points, while McAdoo added 19 points and 11 rebounds. They combined for a season-high 43 points, which was the most they’d ever scored together in one game. Neither Bullock nor McAdoo played as well during the second half as they did in the first, but their combined overall effort is a positive sign.
THE FOUR FACTORS
As you can see, UNC won three of the four factors to winning. The Heels edged the Terrapins in offensive rebounding percentage and in getting to the free throw line. Maryland shot better overall, but the Terps gave away an alarming number of possessions.
The Tar Heels maintained a double digit lead for basically the final 26 minutes.
UNC PLAYER OF THE GAME
Reggie Bullock didn’t do much during the second half. That mattered little, though, given his performance in the first. He finished with a career-high 24 points, made four 3-pointers and added five rebounds.
OBSERVATIONS AND NOTES
--One of Williams’ primary concerns entering Saturday was how his team would fare against Alex Len, Maryland’s 7-foot-1 center. Len, though, attempted just seven shots and finished with a quiet 10 points, about three fewer than his average.
Desmond Hubert, the Heels’ sophomore center, was most responsible for defending Len until foul trouble forced Hurbert to the bench in the second half. Freshmen forwards Joel James and Brice Johnson defended Len at times, and UNC also double-teamed him when the opportunity arose.
“We talked about that in the days leading up to this game, that you don’t want to double early because he’s big enough to pass out,” Paige said. “So once he starts dribbling and putting it on the floor, if you’re the strong side guard, just go double him. So we had a lot of success with that and kind of frustrated him with that early.”
-- UNC’s 62 points were its fewest in a victory against Maryland since Feb. 13, 1985. The Terrapins’ 52 points were their fewest in a game against the Tar Heels since 1982.
--McAdoo’s double-double was his fifth of the season, but first since the victory against UAB on Dec. 1.
--James made two shots from the field, his first game with multiple made shots since the Dec. 8 victory against East Tennessee State.
--UNC’s 23.5 percent shooting performance in the second half was its worst since shooting 22.6 percent against Kansas last season during the NCAA tournament Midwest regional final.
--UNC recognized its football team at halftime, and introduced the Tar Heels as the Coastal Division champions. The Heels finished in a three-way tie with Miami and Georgia Tech but UNC, which would have won that tiebreaker, was ineligible to play for the ACC championship because of an NCAA-mandated postseason ban.
UNC coach Larry Fedora addressed the crowd and said that despite the bowl ban, “all [the Tar Heels] did was go out and win eight games and win the Coastal Division championship.”
Fedora drew some loud applause when he referenced Giovani Bernard’s game-winning punt return for a touchdown against N.C. State.
“How about that punt return against that team in red?” Fedora said.
“We were really, really good in the first half. I want our guys to focus on that and then the second half, I want us to be able to show them on tape and watch it and learn from that and make sure we can try to do the same thing for 40 minutes.” –Roy Williams
“It was pretty in the first half, guys. I don’t mind telling you. It was pretty. It looked like North Carolina basketball.” –Williams
“Florida State, we had more of a sense of urgency and took better care of the basketball and never got selfish. And today, I think that in the first half it was really, really pretty. And then in the second half it was really, really ugly. Young guys do that. And you also, when you’re younger, you see a 22-point lead and you think everything is going to be rosy but this is the ACC and nobody in this league is going to stop. Especially a Mark Turgeon-coached team is not going to roll over and play dead for you.” –Williams
“If we’re going to be a really good team, the best players got to play … Those are our two leaders on the court, and they’ve got to play that way. Marcus is 1-for-7. Dexter is 2-for-6, P.J.’s 1-for-8. They can learn from Reggie and James Michael, and take better shots. And then when you do get good shots, make a shot.” –Williams, on McAdoo and Bullock
“We came out with a lot of intensity. The first half was probably the best half of basketball we’ve played all year. Right away from the beginning, just pressuring them … in the first half we played some really, really good basketball.” –Marcus Paige
“I was just catching the ball and shooting. I was feeling it, and trying to get the crowd in it – just playing with a lot of emotion, playing with that sense of urgency.” –Reggie Bullock
“It’s always the mistakes. I mean, we could have done a lot of things better. Especially on the offensive end, and defensive end. Especially the second half, you just look at that – there was a lot of breakdowns. I don’t know if that came from just being complacent with the lead that we had, but that’s something that great teams do not do.” –James Michael McAdoo, on what he’ll focus on between the great first half and the poor second
UNC hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday at the Smith Center. The Yellow Jackets will enter Chapel Hill in last place in the ACC, and they are the only winless team in league play.