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December 31, 2013

Tar Heels wear down Seahawks

CHAPEL HILL--- North Carolina and in-state foe UNC-Wilmington came together Tuesday evening in the Smith Center but it looked early on like both teams had their mind on their New Year's Eve plans instead of basketball. The result was another sloppy, lethargic first 30 minutes reminiscent of Friday night's ho-hum triumph over Northern Kentucky.

The Tar Heels (10-3) got energized late in the second half and wound up blowing away the visiting Seahawks (6-9), 84-51, but it wasn't pretty for long stretches.

"We were much better in the second half," said UNC head coach Roy Williams immediately after the game. "The first half we didn't shoot the ball well because we took bad shots. Probably four or five different times we shot the ball when somebody had a better shot. I think we did a much better job defensively in the second half."

Wearing their road blue jerseys at home for just the second time in modern history---the Tar Heels also wore their road uniforms in a 1990 game against UConn in the Smith Center in the ACC-Big East Challenge---Carolina never really let UNCW feel like they had a chance to win the game.

But they let them hang around the entire first half and not feel like they were getting blown out, either.

The two teams shot a miserable 23 of 66 (34.8) percent over the game's first 20 minutes, with UNCW shooting a dreadful 9-of-26 (25 percent) and 2-of-9 (22.2 percent) from three-point land over the first 20 minutes as the Tar Heels built a 31-23 halftime edge.

UNCW started the game a miserable 2-for-20 from the field---exacerbating the team's lack of size and athleticism compared to the Heels---but a 7-0 run by the Seahawks at the end of the first half after the Tar Heels had stretched its lead out to a then game-high 15 points (31-16) kept the visitors from Wilmington within striking range at the intermission, trailing by just eight.

In the first half UNC committed nine turnovers against just four assists and allowed UNCW to nearly out-rebound them (the rebounding margin was 24-21).

In the second half the Tar Heels started taking command, going on a 10-2 run over the first four-plus minutes of the second half to build its biggest lead to that point at 41-25.

Gradually Carolina continued to pour it on, building a 24-point lead at the 8:14 mark of the final period after a high-flying slam dunk by J.P. Tokoto that was immediately followed by an alley-oop slam by James Michael McAdoo, making the score 61-37 with just over eight minutes to play.

By the time McAdoo converted a three-point play at the 5:34 mark, making the count 71-41, and Brice Johnson converted a mid-range jumper to make the score 73-41, the Tar Heels had out-scored the Seahawks 42-18 in approximately fifteen minutes of court action, allowing Coach Williams to substitute liberally down the stretch and play out the game with the end of his bench on the floor.

In the end the Tar Heels out-scored UNCW 53-28 over the game's final 20 minutes, overwhelming the coastal visitors with stifling defense and fast-paced transition baskets, along with the occasional three-point play.

UNC shot a stellar 22 of 35 (62.9 percent) in the second half, and finished the game much better from the free throw line than other points in the season, making 13 of 17 from the charity stripe (76.5 percent).

"You shoot 63 percent in the second half because you're unselfish and you move the basketball. If you do those things, you're going to get good shots. It was a good night for us," said Williams.

For UNCW head coach Buzz Peterson, whose Seahawks have already played road games this season at Iowa, Iowa State, Western Kentucky, Liberty, Marshall, and Charleston Southern in addition to the game in Chapel Hill, it was another good Homecoming, even though the outcome wasn't nearly what he wanted.

"I always enjoy coming back, seeing old faces. This place is truly a family. People don't forget each other," said Peterson. "I can call Coach Williams and they're always there, from Coach Smith to Coach Guthridge. It's always a neat place to come back."

"It's interesting to see two old Mountain boys going at it out there," added Peterson, referring to the fact that both he and Williams are from Asheville.

McAdoo had another solid game for the Tar Heels, leading the way with 23 points on 11 of 14 shooting from the floor, adding 10 rebounds for the game's only double-double, and also pitching in three steals and one assist.

"I thought James Michael was really efficient tonight. 11 of 14 (shooting), which you love having," said Williams.

McAdoo was one of four Tar Heels in double figures, joined by Marcus Paige's 15 points, and Leslie McDonald and Johnson, who each scored 14.

Kennedy Meeks, making his first start for Carolina with Joel James still injured and Johnson struggling in recent outings, was 0-for-3 from the floor with 0 points and four turnovers with just one steal and one block.

Johnson, perhaps feeling the heat of his temporary demotion, was six-of-11 from the floor and had seven rebounds and three assists.

Williams said after the game that there's no commitment on his part to any of those guys as the starting center.

"Brice started the last two games and didn't play well, and I decided to give Kennedy a shot. I'm not married (to any one of them) starting," Williams replied.

Tuesday's game marked the end of UNC's six-game non-conference homestand, as the Tar Heels begin Atlantic Coast Conference play Sunday in Winston-Salem with a game against Wake Forest in Joel Coliseum.

"The level of intensity goes up about ten levels, and you better be ready to go up with it or just stay in the locker room," said Williams. "The level of quickness, level of strength is so much better (in ACC play). I think they're prepared, and we'll have to see when we go over there Sunday (to Wake Forest).


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