North Carolina 105, Wake Forest 72

UNC routs Wake Forest 105-72 for ninth straight win

acarter@newsobserver.comFebruary 22, 2014 

  • Observations

    • UNC’s lopsided victory allowed coach Roy Williams to rest his players late in the game. Wade Moody, a walk-on guard, entered the game with about five minutes to play, and the rest of the walk-ons joined him not long after. No UNC player was in the game for more than 29 minutes. Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige played a season-low 28 minutes.

    • The Tar Heels continued their trend of shooting better in the second half. UNC shot 61.3 percent in the second half against Wake Forest, and UNC has now shot 50 percent or better in the second half in eight of its past 11 games. Combined, the Tar Heels shot 59.6 percent during the second half in victories against Florida State, Duke and Wake Forest.

    • Don’t look now, but the Tar Heels might be in the midst of turning around their free throw woes. UNC went 24-for-29 from the line, and at one point had made 21 consecutive free throws, including their final 10 against Duke Thursday night. The Tar Heels entered the game shooting 62.3 percent from the line, which is on pace to be the worst free throw percentage in school history.

    Andrew Carter

— During the final moments of the most physically demanding portion of North Carolina’s season, the student section at the Smith Center was chanting for biscuits, and Wade Moody, a walk-on guard, was making shots.

Moody said the scene was “awesome” and “incredible” at the end of UNC’s 105-72 victory against Wake Forest on Saturday, when the student section chanted his name after he made one 3-pointer, assited on one and then made another, in the final minutes.

This was the Tar Heels’ fourth game in eight days – a grueling stretch that began with a gritty victory against Pittsburgh Feb. 15. The Tar Heels then rallied to beat Florida State on the road Feb. 17, and No. 5 Duke in an emotionally- and physically-draining game Thursday night. Noon

If the Tar Heels (20-7, 10-4 ACC) were tired, they didn’t show it Saturday amid one of their most dominant performances. Coach Roy Williams lightened the practice schedule this week, including a sessionless than an hour Friday.

Williams reminded his players of Jan. 5 at Wake Forest, when they endured a 73-67 loss, the first of three consecutive to begin ACC play.

“I told them I think it would be easy for me (to be ready) if someone beat my rear end last time,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t have any problem if it was four games in eight days or eight games in four days, I’d be ready to play their rear ends. And that was the other thing I said. They did – they whacked us the last time.”

UNC returned the favor, and then some. After a slow start, the Tar Heels took their first double-digit lead with about nine minutes to play before halftime.

From there, the Demon Deacons (14-13, 4-10) never got closer than eight, and they trailed by double-digits during the final 29:12. UNC led by at least 20 points throughout the final 12 minutes.

“I think it just means we’re focused,” UNC sophomore guard Marcus Paige said of his team’s performance. “We understand that we had a chance to maybe get a day of rest, a day or two to get our bodies together after the game. But we had to complete (the task).

“Coach always said it’s not special to go four games in eight days unless you win all four of them.”

Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said his team left its defensive intensity “in Winston-Salem.” Without it, the Demon Deacons surrendered open shot after open shot – layups, 3-pointers, midrange jumpers.

At times, the Demon Deacons appeared as though they had given up defensively. While they lacked effort, UNC lacked mercy.

“We kept our foot on their necks the entire time,” UNC sophomore forward Brice Johnson said.

Johnson finished with 14 points, one of six UNC players who scored in double figures. Leslie McDonald, the fifth-year senior guard who broke out of a prolonged shooting slump against Duke, led UNC with 19 points.

McDonald made 5-of-6 3-point shots and the Tar Heels, whose 105 points were their most against a Division I opponent since the 2010-11 season, made 11 of 15 (73.3 percent). A school spokesman said that set a school record for 3-point percentage.

Williams has described this season as the most difficult of his career, and the victory against Wake Forest concluded the most strenuous stretch to date – at least on the court. At the end, the Tar Heels didn’t look tired. They were too busy celebrating while Moody and the rest of the walk-ons put the final touches on UNC’s ninth consecutive victory.

Moody, a senior from Mt. Airy, walked onto the team before the start of the 2012-13 season, after spending a season on UNC’s junior varsity team. When he arrived on campus he said he didn’t even know that there was a JV team until a buddy from his outdoor pick-up games suggested he try out.

He did, and there he was Saturday, taking his first shots all season – and making them – during UNC’s most thorough ACC victory of the season.

“You’ve got to have a little fortitude,” Williams said. “You haven’t scored all year and you’re in the game five seconds and they throw you the ball at the top of the key, and the little sucker went and knocked it right in.”

Moody’s second 3-pointer pushed the Tar Heels past the 100-point mark, and that meant discounted biscuits Sunday at area Bojangles. He figured he might go there to enjoy the fruits of his labor, though the memory he made is likely to last longer.

“Days like this are just ones I’ll remember for the rest of my life, for sure,” Moody said.

Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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