UNC got a huge first half out of Reggie Bullock Tuesday night on its way to a 75-65 win over Clemson, as the freshman sharpshooter made up for the absence of Leslie McDonald with a big start.
"I just know I had to go out there and pick up the slack. Everybody had to pick up the slack for Leslie because he wasn't out there tonight," said Bullock after the game.
"I know he (McDonald) knocks down shots, so I've got to be out there knocking down shots, hitting the boards, playing defense the way he does it when he's out there. I just did that tonight and that's how the game went."
Bullocks' shooting over the first 20 minutes---six-of-seven from the floor, three-of-four from three-point range, 16 points---was vital for the Tar Heels in getting off to the fast start that eluded them in previous contests against Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech.
"I was just knocking down shots and finding points as easy as I could get them---going to the boards, getting rebounds, finding teammates---that's basically what I did," Bullock said.
"Yeah, my confidence was rising (throughout the first half), but basically my teammates were finding me and I give thanks to them for finding me on those shots," he added.
"It was extremely important (for Bullock to play well), because last week I asked the guys, 'Who's been shooting it the best?' and they said, 'Leslie,' and I said, 'Who's shooting it second best?' and they said, 'Reggie,' so we needed somebody to step up," said UNC head coach Roy Williams.
"Reggie did a tremendous job in the beginning knocking down all those shots," said Larry Drew II. "Missing Leslie, that was something I was a little worried about, but Reggie definitely stepped up and did his thing."
Along with his outside shooting, Bullock forced two steals in the first half and was the beneficiary of some high-percentage shot opportunities to pad his scoring total.
His defense---and that of his teammates---was what really propelled the Tar Heels to victory over the Tigers.
"Coach basically just said to get into the passing lanes. I started my game off by getting in the passing lanes and getting easy buckets for myself," Bullock said. "I started myself off at a nice pace, knocking down shots when my teammates found me. That was just the key to the game to get me going."
"Reggie Bullock was huge in the first half making shots---Reggie gave us a huge lift in the first half---but I really felt that our defensive intensity in the first half set the tone for the whole game," Williams added.
Although Bullock wasn't able to replicate his white-hot first half, finishing the game with no second half field goals and a pair of three throws to end with 18 points, it was his strong effort early that helped the Tar Heels gain a foothold against the Tigers and grab a huge conference victory that puts UNC at 3-1 in the ACC heading into a weeklong break from game action.
After a bit of a slow start shooting the ball in league play, Bullock's teammates knew it was eventually going to be time for him to break out and have a big game.
"We knew it was only a matter of time. I think these first league games he hasn't been shooting the ball well and we've been ragging him about it," said Kendall Marshall.
"We knew it was a matter of time before he started hitting those shots. He's been getting the looks---they just went in tonight."
While Bullock and his rookie teammates have to continue getting better at protecting the basketball---Bullock had one turnover in particular that Coach Williams made mention of after the game---the experience these guys are gaining as key contributors to the Tar Heel lineup this winter is going to be invaluable down the line.
"They (Clemson) went zone a few times in the second half and we didn't knock in any shots in at that point," Williams said. "He (Bullock) had one silly turnover and Harrison (Barnes) had two silly turnovers. We've got to do away with those."
"It's been a real learning experience," Bullock said.
"With all the hype coming in as a freshman I haven't played all that well, but I'm just starting to build my confidence right now just playing as a team."
"If I basically listen to what Coach tells me, and I'll be good throughout the season."