North Carolina played host to the East Carolina Pirates Saturday afternoon and came away with a 93-87 victory over its in-state counterparts. It was the first time the Pirates had ever played in Chapel Hill.
Despite the historical ramifications hovering over the game the Pirates didn't seem intimidated in the slightest.
The Tar Heels jumped out to a 42-26 halftime lead before getting outscored 61-51 in the second half.
It's the second week in a row that UNC has been outscored in the second half, as they were also outscored in the latter portion of last week's East Tennessee State game.
North Carolina's Roy Williams wasn't pleased with the results turned in by his frontcourt players.
Only three players-Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston and J.P. Tokoto-recorded an offensive rebound for the Tar Heels.
"I've never had a game where a post player never got an offensive rebound the whole game," said Williams. "So I got really frustrated and I went really small."
To counteract the lack of stat output, Williams went about as small as he could with a line-up consisting of Luke Davis, Bullock, Hairston, Tokoto and Leslie McDonald taking the court early in the second half.
"At one time I had J.P. (Tokoto) and Reggie (Bullock) as the four, five. That way we could switch all the screens on the ball and do a better job and then get where we're supposed to be switching," said Williams. "Then one of the next to last plays, we don't switch and they pull up their big guy for a layup underneath."
Williams believes his team still has a lot of work to do over the holidays, himself included.
"The head coach at North Carolina has got to do a better job," said Williams.
Rebounding, and especially offensive rebounding, are going to be paramount in the coming weeks as this team prepares for the start of ACC play.
"Anticipate your teammate's shot and go to the board. That's a pretty simple thing to do right there. Again, we've got some time periods now for three practices before we play, then a couple more when we get back before we play again…let people go home. We've got to do a lot of work, bottom line."
James Michael McAdoo led the Tar Heels in scoring with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Bullock had a good game from downtown draining two of his three three-point attempts and scoring 14 points total.
Hairston continued in his role as a scoring sixth man contributing 18 points off the bench.
Brice Johnson was named the fifth starter in what has become a revolving door position for North Carolina this season. However, Johnson only played 15 minutes due to an illness.
Dexter Strickland had a double-double scoring 12 points to go along with 10 assists.
Strickland has really upped his assist numbers in the last few games.
In the last three games, Strickland has 26 assists.
He had a previous career high of nine against UAB, followed that up with a seven assist performance against East Tennessee State and the set a new career high with 10 assists today.
"It's because of Reggie, P.J. and Leslie," said Strickland referring to why his assist numbers have been up.
"Stepping up and making shots and Brice and McAdoo being ready to catch the ball off my penetration. My team, on offense, I think we're doing a great job."
Strickland commented on why he has been such a steady hand this season as the Tar Heels develop their younger players.
"It's just confidence alone. It's my last year, so my confidence is at an all-time high since I've been here, with my shot and getting guys involved," said Strickland.
Pirates head coach Jeff Lebo, who played for North Carolina from 1986-1989, commented on what it meant coming to Chapel Hill as a former player and what it meant for his team.
"When I missed a lot of shots they didn't give me a standing ovation here," said Lebo. "It's a special place for me obviously having played (at UNC), and that was awfully nice of the people here to do it. It meant a lot to me as well as my family."
Lebo was referring to the pregame welcome he received from the Tar Heels fans in attendance.
For the Pirates, it was point guard Miguel Paul that acted as the igniter for a near comeback in the second half.
Paul, who transferred to ECU after playing at Missouri during his freshman season, had 15 points and eight assists in 35 minutes of game action.
It was Paul's ability to drive in the paint that collapsed the Tar Heel's defense and set-up good shots for the Pirates in the second half.
ECU's shooting percentage went from 30.3 percent in the first half to 41.8 percent in the second half. Their three-point shooting percentage jumped from 28.6 percent to 37 percent.
The Pirates, who only shot four free throws in the entire first half, shot 19-of-23 from the free throw line in the second half. Williams attributed this jump in foul shots on poor defensive technique on the part of his players.
Maurice Kemp also had a solid game for ECU. Kemp had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
North Carolina is set to begin the stretch run of its non-conference schedule. The upcoming games will give the Tar Heels plenty of opportunities to become battle tested heading into ACC play.
They play a road game against Texas Wednesday night followed by back-to-back home games against McNeese State and fellow ranked opponent UNLV to close out the non-conference schedule.
---Strickland's 10 assists against East Carolina University were a career high for the point guard out of New Jersey.
---Hairston tied his season high for scoring with his 18 points against the Pirates. This was Hairston's sixth double-figure scoring outing in his last seven games.
---Tokoto had his best game of the season against ECU. He racked up 10 points and five rebounds, both career highs in his young freshman career.
---McAdoo had a big game from the free throw line. He shot a career high 9 of 10 from the charity stripe.
---UNC is now 3-0 all-time against East Carolina. This was their first victory against the Pirates in Chapel Hill after defeating ECU in Greenville in 1953 and in Winston-Salem, North Carolina during an NCAA tournament game in 1993.