During one stretch in the second half of its 78-63 victory at Long Beach State on Friday night, No. 11 North Carolina vindicated coach Roy Williams. The Tar Heels during those moments proved they could take control of a game from the perimeter, just as Williams believed they could.
The Tar Heels (3-0) entered the season surrounded by questions, but with an array of returning guards Williams didn’t think shooting would be among those questions. He insisted UNC would be an effective team from the outside, even while the Heels struggled to find their shot during their first two games.
Trailing 41-39 early in the second half against the 49ers (1-2), UNC regained the lead and took control thanks to its 3-point shooting. Reggie Bullock, the Heels’ junior guard, started his team’s 20-4 run with a 3, and freshman point guard Marcus Paige made another 3 to give UNC a 45-43 lead with 15:36 to play.
The Tar Heels never trailed again, and Bullock, Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston made 3s on consecutive possessions to put UNC ahead 59-45 with 11:45 to play.
From there, the Heels simply had to hold off the 49ers, who entered Friday night tied with Kansas for the nation’s second-longest home winning streak. Before its defeat, Long Beach had won 23 consecutive games on its home court at the Walter Pyramid.
UNC, which made three of its first four attempts from behind the 3-point line, finished 10-of-27 on 3-point attempts. James Michael McAdoo, who led the Heels in scoring in their first two victories, did so again on Friday night. He finished with 18 points. James Ennis finished with 18 to lead Long Beach.
Hairston, Bullock and Paige all made three 3s for UNC. Hairston finished with 14 points and Paige, a freshman, with 13. Bullock finished with nine points – all of them on 3-pointers.
UNC’s victory came in its first road game of the season. The Tar Heels now will travel to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, where they play on Monday against Mississippi State.