North Carolina beat Clemson 80-61 on Sunday night, and it wasn’t that close. Here’s the story about the Tar Heels’ 57th consecutive home victory against the Tigers, who still have yet to win in Chapel Hill.
And here are some thoughts:
1. The Tar Heels rediscovered their intensity.
How many times have we heard Roy Williams talk about how the Tar Heels needed to play harder, and with more effort and energy? Williams has talked about that again and again this season but, for the first time in a long time, he was proud of how hard his team played on Sunday night. The Tar Heels were quick to dive on the floor for loose balls. They were relentless going after rebounds. They played energetic, aggressive defense. We simply hadn’t seen UNC play like this in a while. Now the question is whether the Tar Heels can continue to play with the kind of urgency they brought on Sunday night.
2. Finally, UNC played well offensively against a good defensive team.
Clemson entered the Smith Center as one of the best defensive teams in the nation. The Tigers were holding opponents to 37.2 percent shooting, and they ranked among the top 10 teams nationally in field goal percentage defense and fewest points allowed per possession. UNC, though, was at its best offensively. The Tar Heels did two things well that they hadn’t been doing well before this game: They shot effectively from the perimeter, and eight of their 18 3-point attempts. And they generated easier scoring chances in the paint, where the Tar Heels outscored the Tigers 34-22. Officially, UNC had just four fast break points but it routinely hustled down the court and created easier scoring chances before Clemson had a chance to set its defense. The Tar Heels shot 55.4 percent – its second-highest percentage in a game this season.
3. James Michael McAdoo could be in the midst of a transformation.
McAdoo has played with more outward emotion and passion recently, and on Sunday night he put together one of his strongest games of the season. He finished with 22 points and seven rebounds, and Williams said McAdoo set the tone early with his energy. The Tar Heels seemed to feed off of it. McAdoo and Marcus Paige, the sophomore guard, are the leaders of this team, and they both possess traits that any coach would want in a leader. Still, neither McAdoo nor Paige is all that outwardly emotional, and because of that it’s sometimes easy to wonder who’s best equipped to provide a spark when the Tar Heels need one. Well, UNC needed one at the start on Sunday night and McAdoo provided it. It remains to be seen whether McAdoo becomes a consistent emotional force, but he was undoubtedly the catalyst on Sunday.
North Carolina and Clemson split the four factors, but the Tar Heels owned an overwhelming edge in shooting.
“Hopefully it’s an easy thing to do is just to look at how well we played when we do play that hard. We didn’t change anything, X’s and O’s. You know, when you watch the game, we just played harder. We got 50-50 balls. We valued the basketball a little bit better, and we just played hard. So you’ve got to look at that and see it’s a positive feeling around our locker room right now, and why wouldn’t you want to do that every game, instead of having to let up.”
-UNC point guard Marcus Paige
The Tar Heels travel on Wednesday to Georgia Tech, which is 2-5 in the ACC after an 80-78 loss at N.C. State on Sunday.