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December 7, 2013
Defense Dominates UNC-G
CHAPEL HILL--- For North Carolina, Saturday night's game against UNC-Greensboro was an opportunity to come out and avoid a letdown coming off Wednesday's epic win over No. 1 Michigan State in East Lansing.
It was an opportunity to prove something to themselves, their coaches, and their fans after coming out flat and allowing Belmont to control the tempo the last time they played in Chapel Hill that they could seize the initiative and dominate a team they were widely expected to dominate.
And it was an opportunity for Roy Williams to beat a former player and restore form to the natural order of things after Jerod Haase and UAB showed sometimes the tail can wag the dog in last weekend's game in Birmingham.
"I was worried some about that (having a letdown), because we had a big win against Louisville, and we didn't play nearly as well here the next game (against Belmont)."
"So that's basically what we talked about was great intensity. We didn't talk about winning or scoring. We talked about having better concentration and more intensity, and I think we did that," said UNC head coach Roy Williams.
This time it was Wes Miller, a beloved former Tar Heel, who brought his UNC-Greensboro squad into the Dean Dome, and they were shown the door in emphatic fashion as the Tar Heels built a 30-point halftime lead on the way to an 81-50 triumph.
The win was largely built around UNC"s strong defensive effort in the first half, as the Tar Heels put together a 33-5 run after UNC-G briefly pulled to within two (11-9) on its way to a 30-point halftime cushion.
For the majority of the first half the Spartans simply couldn't buy a bucket, failing to make a single three-pointer and generally struggling to get a good shot at all, while UNC got into transition several times after UNC-G turnovers and finding itself getting a lot of high-percentage shots.
Carolina (6-2) out-scored the Spartans (4-5) 20-2 in first half turnover points, while UNC-G went a stretch of eight minutes and 22 seconds without a field goal.
"In the first half we were very active defensively. About as active as we've been active as we've been at any time this year. I liked that part,"
UNC still left a lot of points on the table, making just nine of 16 free throws in the opening half, but it didn't matter, as Marcus Paige tallied 12 over the game's first 20 minutes and Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson scored eight each off the bench as Carolina built a commanding 44-14 halftime advantage.
UNC-Greensboro made just six field goals in the first half, shooting just 28.6 percent.
They committed 15 turnovers and failed to make a single three-pointer---the one element that typically allows mid-major teams to have a chance of pulling off the upset against Carolina.
UNC-G finally started making some shots in the second half, scoring more points (15) in the first four and a half minutes of the final stanza than they did in the entire first 20 minutes (14) and briefly pulling within 22 at 51-29 before the Tar Heels regained its composure and starting building the lead back up to 67-33 by the seven-minute mark.
The comfortable working margin allowed Williams to substitute liberally down the stretch, allowing the majority of the team to have a piece of the commanding victory as he took out the starters one by one and allowed his youngsters and back end of the bench to play out the game.
Five players finished in double figures in scoring for North Carolina including James Michael McAdoo, who has been struggling of late but picked up 13 points.
Johnson led the way for UNC with 14 points, while Meeks and Marcus Paige each had 12.
Nate Britt rounded out UNC's double-digit scoring performers with his second straight game of more than 10 points. He finished with 11 against the Spartans.
In the end UNC forced 21 UNC-Greensboro turnovers, dominated the boards 46-28, and held the Spartans to 40.8 percent shooting for the game even after they came out and made half their shots in the second half (14 of 28).
"I didn't like the way we started the second half, but we're trying to get better every day," said Coach Williams.
"For us to force 21 turnovers---that's the most I think we've forced this year---and five guys in double figures. All in all, it was a W. I think we did improve---I think we did get better---and that's our goal right now."
"We wanted to contain their bigs. We knew their bigs were the leading scorers on their team, so that was just the biggest thing we wanted to do tonight," added Britt.
"Most definitely we want to come out and compete every night. Coach has been telling us that we need to compete and bring the intensity every single game. It doesn't matter who we're playing. I think this was a good win for us."
UNC, ironically, also shot exactly 50 percent from the floor in the second half (15 of 30), allowing them to maintain their 30 point halftime advantage through the final 20 minutes.
North Carolina now gets a week off to focus on end-of-semester exams before returning to action next Saturday afternoon in a much-anticipated battle with Kentucky, back in Chapel Hill.