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November 8, 2013

Heels roll over Oakland in opener

The season is underway here in Chapel Hill, as the crowd filed in for a late start at the Dean Dome.

The "Jump Around" introduction began and the players were announced, as the day finally had come for a Tar Heel squad that has faced several frustrating moments in the offseason; now it was time to put that all behind them and to get out on the floor and just play.

And so they did, as the Tar Heels made quick work Friday night against the Oakland Golden Grizzles, defeating them 84-61 behind hot shooting in the first half, as James Michael McAdoo led the way with 21 points on the night, shooting 9 of 13 from the floor.

In the beginning, it wasn't quite sure who would be starting for the Tar Heels early on in the season, as it is assumed that it will change with P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald returning to the team at some point.

The two starters that were a given were McAdoo and Marcus Paige early in the week, but head coach Roy Williams made an earlier announcement on Thursday of who the possible starters were going to be.

Freshman Nate Britt and J.P. Tokoto made their first starts as a Tar Heel this season, while Joel James got the start at center in Friday's match up against Oakland.

The first half couldn't have gone any better for North Carolina, as they stormed out to a huge lead of 37 points, bigger than most leads that had all of last year.

The Tar Heels shot 74 percent from the floor in the first half, going 23 of 31 from the floor and hitting five three pointers in the first half, with four of them coming from Paige.

"They made tough shots, but they also got a lot of easy ones. Then we started taking bad shots, which was leading to run-outs and easy plays," head coach Greg Kampe said after the game. "We couldn't stop the snowball from going."

The Golden Grizzles wanted to try to take advantage of the lack of shooting guards on the Tar Heels, as Oakland tried to put in a zone defense.

That soon backfired against them, as Tokoto and Paige scored 25 points combined in the first half, both looking like they have worked hard on their shooting strokes in the off season.

Coming in, the Tar Heels knew they could take advantage of the Golden Grizzles on the boards and they did just that, out rebounding them 41-22 and getting 10 offensive rebounds on the night.

The Tar Heels couldn't have asked for a better start on the season, as the team just seemed to be focused coming out of the locker room and ready to take care of business, something that they struggled at times with last year.

McAdoo was out and running, looking stronger on the floor and making better decisions down in the paint, while continuing to get in the passing lane for breakaway dunks.

Paige and Britt looked like a very nice 1-2 guard combo out there, as the two finished with a combined total of 18 points and eight assists on the night, but will still look at the five turnovers as something they can work on.

The big fellows down low took care of business, as Joel James finished with four points and eight rebounds, looking more energetic and controlled than he did last year.

Brice Johnson also chipped in with 10 points, while Kennedy Meeks debuted his career at UNC with 10 points.

Williams will certainly love for his team to play like they did in the first half with their hot shooting and movement of the ball, but everyone knows that Williams will continue to look at his team to get better.

He certainly can look at the second half for his team to improve, as the Tar Heels only shot 41 percent from the floor and were outscored 40-26 in the second half. Oakland certainly picked up their intensity and showed that they weren't going down without a fight.

The bench was a bright spot for the Tar Heels, something that Williams noticed and hopes he gets every night, as they scored 28 total points on the night.

It certainly was a good game for the Tar Heel faithful that were able to make it out to the late start and were treated well to some good ol' Carolina basketball. But it is only the start of the season and with no timetable about when Hairston and McDonald might return, Williams will push his team further and harder to get better.

"What I'm proud of is that we started running our stuff, we took some time off the clock and we started guarding them a little bit," Williams said after the win Friday night. "We think we're a pretty good rebounding team and in the first half, we didn't even try to rebound. Of course, when they make everything there aren't many rebounds to get, but we didn't rebound on the offensive end."

"I though in the second half we got some misses-we knew they had to miss some shots - and we rebounded. We didn't give them put-backs and we got the momentum going the way we needed it. Actually, I'm pretty pleased if you can get your butt kicked the way we got our butt kicked and walk away pretty pleased."

The Tar Heels will have a week off now before they head back to the Dean Dome to face off with Holy Cross on Nov. 15 in Chapel Hill.


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