North Carolina began the season on Friday night with an 84-61 victory against Oakland. Here’s the story. And here’s the review:
The game in a sentence:
The Tar Heels didn’t miss P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald and used a dominant first half to put away Oakland early.
Three takeaways from the Tar Heels’ victory:
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1. The Tar Heels exceeded expectations in their season-opener. Who would have thought UNC would play so well without Hairston and McDonald? UNC simply didn’t miss either player – at least for one night.
2. UNC’s players successfully filled their roles. James Michael McAdoo, the junior forward, was assertive from the start, and finished with a game-high 21 points. Marcus Paige made four 3-pointers. J.P. Tokoto, the sophomore forward, looked tremendously improved from a season ago and finished with a career-high 13 points. Kennedy Meeks, the freshman center, finished with 13 points in 10 minutes.
3. Maybe, just maybe the Tar Heels will be OK until the Hairston/McDonald situation is resolved. No, UNC isn’t going to shoot 74.2 percent in the first half very often – in fact that was the best shooting half of Roy Williams’ head coaching tenure – but even beyond the hot shooting UNC was good tonight. The Tar Heels dominated in all aspects, and the score wasn’t as close as the final 23-point margin. This should be a confidence-building performance.
Just about everything in the first half. The Tar Heels overwhelmed the Golden Grizzlies in all aspects. UNC’s defensive pressure led to turnovers, and Nate Britt, a freshman point guard who started his first college game, pushed the pace. The Tar Heels shot so well in part because they took so many high-percentage shots. Everything UNC needed to happen, happened. McAdoo was an assertive, go-to player. Paige provided production on the perimeter. Tokoto showed he can be a factor. Meeks and Johnson provided some production inside.
What needs work:
UNC wasn’t nearly as sharp in the second half, but that’s to be expected, somewhat, when you lead by 37 points (58-21) at halftime. Free-throw shooting was a weakness last year, and it was again shaky on Friday night. UNC made just 13 of its 20 attempts.
UNC player of the game:
McAdoo. Williams was most pleased with how well he shot: 9-of-13 from the field. McAdoo benefited from the fact that Meeks and Brice Johnson both scored in double figures (10 points apiece). The more production UNC gets from its other big guys, the easier it’ll be for McAdoo to thrive.
UNC hosts Holy Cross next Friday night. Might there be a resolution by then to the Hairston/McDonald situation? Stay tuned. …