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December 21, 2013

Heels need OT to defeat Wildcats

CHAPEL HILL--- The North Carolina basketball program and its fans have had a week they would like to forget.

After suffering a heartbreaker against Texas last Wednesday night in Chapel Hill, North Carolina finally released the outcome of the P.J. Hairston sage, as he wasn't reinstated back into UNC. They also received word about Joel James, as he injured suffered a knee sprain during the Texas game and will be out 10-14 days.

On Saturday the Tar Heels looked to change all that around and put everything in the past against a pesky Davidson team in the Smith Center, and it took all they had to pull it out.

In what was a much closer game than expected, the Tar Heels needed overtime to defeat the Wildcats 97-85, as sophomore J.P. Tokoto finished the game with a career high 22 points and had 11 rebounds, five steals, and four blocks, again, all career highs for him.

"Congratulate Davidson. I thought they did some really great things," said head coach Roy Williams afterwards. "It was a hard game. Just congratulate Davidson for doing such a good job."

"We had played about the way I feel. I feel right now like a train ran over me and then backed up and got me a second time. But it is what it is."

"I'm proud of our team's toughness. At the free throw line we made some free throws down the stretch that we had to have. Shot them a little bit better under pressure than we did even earlier in the game," Williams added.

The Tar Heels came in with a size advantage and certainly wanted to dominate the boards in this game, something they didn't do last time out in the narrow loss to Texas.

Davidson used the inspiration of their top two scorers returning to action---preseason SoCon player of the Year De'Mon Brooks and Tom Droney--- and really attacked the Tar Heels early, hitting 50 percent from the floor in the first half.

The Tar Heels shot 37 percent from the floor but were able to take the lead into halftime, 38-35.

However, the Wildcats continued to hang around.

The Tar Heels held a 21-20 advantage on the boards and were actually outscored by Davidson in the paint, 22-18.

Tokoto came out hot for the Tar Heels, scoring seven early points and 14 at the end of 20 minutes, while James Michael McAdoo had nine points at halftime.

However, two of the Tar Heels top scorers, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson (who got the start tonight for James) were held scoreless in the first half.

After halftime, Davidson came out like a team with an upset on their mind.

They had what they wanted at halftime in the Dean Dome, which was a close contest, and came out to take an early lead in the second half, hitting three three-pointers in the first three minutes of play and taking a 46-42 lead.

After McAdoo hit two free throws at the 15:15 mark, Williams decided to put some pressure on the Wildcats, implementing a full court press, which really ended up affecting the Wildcats in a big way.

"We went to the press two or three possessions in a row, and got us some turnovers when it was a five or six point game (Davidson) leading and got us back in it. I think it was either a five or six point game when we went to it the first time. You've got to try something. And we tried that and we got a couple turnovers," Williams said.

"We just didn't want them to hold down for the last shot freely. And so I was pleased with our defense at that point."

From then on, the Tar Heels started to pick up the intensity and the crowd got involved.

UNC chipped away at the lead with their big guys down low and eventually pushed their lead to 60-54 with aspirations of putting this game away for good.

Yet, the Wildcats continued to put pressure on the Tar Heels going down the stretch, not allowing the Heels to pull away.

A lot of it has to do with Brian Sullivan for Davidson, as he continued to heat up from behind the arc.

Sullivan hit shot after shot against the Tar Heels, going eventually 7-of-14 from behind the arc and Davidson as a team made a healthy nine out of 20 long-range attempts.

The Wildcats battled back to tie the game at 69 with just five minutes to go and the gut wrenching thoughts of another unranked team---and one with a 4-7 record at that---taking down the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill started to click in for the Tar Heel faithful.

The teams went back and forth in the final minutes, as there were 15 lead changes in this game. The Tar Heels eventually found themselves down by two with under a minute to go in the game.

With Paige tying the game at 79 with 29.3 seconds left, Davidson had the last shot, but Sullivan just missed the game winning three as the teams went to overtime.

"When they had the ball with 20-something seconds to play, I didn't want them to just have the last shot. So we ran the trap. They had called the timeout and we ran another trap and they still got a three that could have won it," Williams said. "It was a frustrating game certainly in different ways, but that's my team. You've got to understand that."

Johnson and Leslie McDonald had fouled out late in the second half and Brooks was gone for the Wildcats, as he had chipped in 13 points as their only true down low presence.

From then on, it was the Marcus Paige show.

Paige, who had only six points in the first 40 minutes of play, scored 11 points in overtime, hitting critical free throws and jumpers to help Carolina break out to a comfortable lead at 90-81 with 1:19 left in the extra period.

"Halfway through the second half, Marcus and Brice hadn't scored. Two of the three leading scorers. I think give credit to Davidson (for the way they defended Paige). They played him really hard."

"They were playing 'Triangle and Two' (against Paige and McDonald). They were face-guarding those guys trying to make it difficult to get shots, and they did a nice job of it. They're just good defensively. They really are. And I give credit to their defense."

The Tar Heels were eventually able to take control of the game with free throws, outscoring Davidson 18-6 in the final five minutes of overtime and securing a 97-85 victory, improving them to 8-3 heading into Christmas.

Paige scored 17 points to finish the game, while McAdoo had 19 points, going 5-of-16 from the floor. McAdoo was 9-of-14 from the free throw line and had a career high five assists.

In all, the Tar Heels finished with five players in double figures, with McDonald just missing in that stat with nine points in his second game back.

Sullivan for Davidson finished the game with 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting, while Jordan Barham had 15 points.

"Brian Sullivan was a load for us. Barham was a load for us," Williams replied.

The Tar Heels certainly did fill up the stat line Saturday night though, finishing the game with 34 free throws made, 19 assists, 15 turnovers, 11 blocks, and 11 steals.

It was a much closer game than many expected, but Coach Williams, who was under the weather all game long, is happy to come away with a victory tonight and heading into the Holiday break. North Carolina will return to action next Friday night (December 27) back in Chapel Hill against Northern Kentucky.

"Now we're ready to see Santa Claus and come back and practice on the 26th and try to get better. You'd like a better result. There's no question about that," said Williams.

Box Score: Davidson


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