UNC Now: UNC 76, Gardner-Webb 59 - The look back

acarter@newsobserver.comNovember 9, 2012 

UNC's 76-59 season-opening victory on Friday night against Gardner-Webb provided coach Roy Williams with plenty of teachable moments. ROBERT WILLETT

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina on Friday night began the season with a 76-59 victory against Gardner-Webb. Let’s get to it … the look back:

Three things to take away from UNC’s victory:

1. Maybe James Michael McAdoo really does live up to the lofty expectations that surround him.

Sure, it’s only one game. One game against an opponent that gave a good effort on Friday night, but was ultimately overmatched in every way. Still, if you’re a Tar Heels fan, you have to like what you saw out of McAdoo. He finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds – both career-highs (by far) – and was the steadying force that coach Roy Williams hoped he could be. Not time to anoint McAdoo yet, but you couldn’t have asked for a much better start.

2. Nice start for the freshmen.

Marcus Paige, Joel James, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto all finished with 6 points each, and all did some nice things in their first collegiate game. There were negatives – Paige didn’t finish with an assist, foul trouble hindered James’ productivity – but, all things considered, this was a good first game. Each of the four freshmen did enough positivet things to make it seem like they will all play important roles this season.

3. The shooting woes continue.

Remember how Williams always insisted last season that the Tar Heels were a good shooting team? Even when UNC didn’t shoot well? Well, he said he thought the Heels would be even better from the perimeter this season. That didn’t show in the opener, though. UNC made just one of his 12 3-point attempts, and it was what the Tar Heels did on the interior – and not on the perimeter – that carried them on Friday night.

By the numbers:

9 – rebounds for Reggie Bullock, the junior guard. He finished with just 5 points.

18 – UNC turnovers. McAdoo and Paige had four apiece.

22 – offensive rebounds for UNC. McAdoo had eight of those.

27 – points UNC scored off of offensive rebounds.

47.4 – UNC’s free-throw percentage. Heels made just 9-of-19 free throws. Not good.

52 – points UNC scored in the paint. The Heels held a 52-28 advantage there.

UNC player of the game: McAdoo. He finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds and still appeared as though he could stand to be more aggressive. Williams’ only complaint afterward was that McAdoo took 20 shots from the field. No other UNC player attempted more than nine shots from the field.

Observations and thoughts:

--Reggie Bullock finished with nine rebounds and three assists – which tied him with Dexter Strickland for the team high – but he took just four shots from the field. Williams said afterward that Bullock was too unselfish, and that he wanted Bullock to take the kinds of shots he had an opportunity to take on Friday night.

--Marcus Paige, the freshman point guard who started on Friday night, led the Tar Heels out of the locker room and onto the court before the game. Paige finished without an assist, but Williams said he less concerned by that than he was Paige’s four turnovers.

--Ten players received at least 10 minutes of playing time, including all four freshmen and reserves P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, who played his first regular-season game since the 2010-11 season. McDonald sat out all of last season after suffering a knee injury in the summer of 2011. He finished with 4 points in 11 minutes.

--Desmond Hubert, the sophomore forward, started the game and played 13 minutes. He finished without a point but had four rebounds. Joel James, who has been competing with Hubert for a starting position, started the second half and played 14 minutes overall, finishing with 6 points and four rebounds.

--Williams opened his postgame press conference by dedicating a moment of silence in honor of Eddy Landreth, a longtime Chapel Hill sportswriter who covered UNC athletics. Landreth died earlier in the week.

Quotable:

“I feel like it’s night and day. I feel like now I know what I’m capable of doing, as opposed to last year I was just going out there, just trying to find a loose ball here and there – just trying to fit in. But this year, I feel like I’m embraced by role.” –James Michael McAdoo, on difference between this season and last

“Obviously, with Leslie and Reggie and P.J. that we’re a good shooting team – 1-for-12 from 3-point line doesn’t look like it. But Reggie was almost unselfish to a fault tonight. And he’s got to take a couple more of those shots, and guys got to be willing to screen for him to get him open, too.” –Roy Williams

“It’s a bit overwhelming. Obviously I’m sweating, nervous, because there’s all these cameras and people crowding around me. I feel like I’m the president right now, but it’s OK.” –Joel James, the freshman forward, on the nerves that came with playing his first college game.

Up next:

The Tar Heels host Florida Atlantic on Sunday at 2:30. It will be UNC’s final home game of the month.

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