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November 1, 2013

Heels prevail in exhibition

CHAPEL HILL--- North Carolina was missing three key contributors in Friday night's exhibition game against UNC-Pembroke in the Smith Center, and while it was mostly smooth sailing in the first half as the Tar Heels built a 19-point halftime lead, things were decidedly rougher in the second half.

The Tar Heels claimed an 82-63 triumph against the overmatched Braves and certainly there were plenty of bright spots, especially early, but at the same time, UNC head coach Roy Williams realizes the work is just getting started with this young squad.

"It was a good night for us to learn a lot of things about our team---some good, some bad," said Williams immediately afterwards. "It was an opportunity for us to get better, and I think we will gain from it."

Carolina finished with a whopping 23 turnovers, including 13 in the second half alone, as UNC allowed Pembroke to make a game of it in the second half. But the Tar Heels put Pembroke away with a decisive 23-10 run over the game's final eight and a half minutes.

James Michael McAdoo led the way for UNC with 19 points and 10 rebounds, shooting eight-of-12 from the floor with three free throws, while freshman Kennedy Meeks was UNC's other double-digit scorer with 11 points.

Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige was one of three Tar Heels with eight points, and he added three rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

"We had some guys that did some good things. Marcus Paige is one of the smartest basketball players I've ever been around, and he was brain-dead there for a little while," said Williams. "I think James Michael (McAdoo) had some really good moments. I have so much confidence in Marcus. He'll be fine."

UNC didn't waste any time asserting itself in the low post against the overmatched Braves, using a substantial size advantage---as well as Coach WIlliams throwing body after body into the game---to establish a dominant presence under the basket.

Though Pembroke scored the game's first points, UNC scored the next 10 points for a 10-2 lead and a little breathing room, and before too long, the Tar Heels were sporting a 38-14 advantage. In the first half UNC enjoyed a 15-4 advantage on the defensive glass, as Carolina gobbled up missed shot after missed shot and got the break going.

Pembroke missed all ten of its three-pointer attempts in the first half, while UNC was an outstanding 13-of-14 from the free throw line. These two stats, more than anything, explained Carolina's 43-24 halftime advantage.

But Pembroke was not about to let itself get blown out, as the Braves put together a series of drives and finally started making some outside shots over the game's final 20 minutes.

Gradually picking away at the UNC advantage, Pembroke got all the way within six points (59-53) with under ten minutes to go before the Tar Heels regained control and re-built the lead to a comfortable margin as the final seconds ran off the clock.

Despite playing sloppily and allowing Pembroke to score 15 more points (39) in the second half compared to the first half, the Tar Heels also scored 39 second half points, finishing the game shooting 43.8 percent (28 of 64) while holding Pembroke to 35.1 percent shooting for the game (27 of 77).

Williams admitted that he was no closer to setting an official starting lineup after the exhibition, though the absence of P.J. Hairston, Leslie McDonald, and J.P. Tokoto opened up plenty of chances for others to make a mark.

In all, 10 different Tar Heels scored and 11 players logged at least four minutes, including nine who recorded double-digit minutes. Nobody in the UNC rotation played more than 27 minutes on the night.

"I'm not close to a set lineup by any means," said Williams.

As a result of UNC's wings largely not being in action Friday night the Tar Heels went with some intriguing lineups at times, including playing freshman Isaiah Hicks along the wing at times at the 'three.' Hicks finished with six points and six rebounds.

"Poor Isaiah has never played the three his entire life, and we're trying to get him some minutes out there," said Williams.

The Tar Heels return to action next Friday night with its season opener in the Smith Center against Oakland.

Tokoto is expected to return for that game, and there's a good chance we'll know more about the statuses of McDonald and Hairston before that one tips off.


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