UNC didn't get off to its best start Saturday afternoon against Virginia Tech but managed to win in overtime 72-60 to secure their fifth ACC victory of the season.
UNC's James Michael McAdoo went up for a dunk on the opening shot of the game and missed. It was a snapshot that illustrated what would be a rough first half for the Tar Heels against the Hokies.
Virginia Tech jumped out to a quick 12-2 lead forcing UNC Head Coach Roy Williams to call a timeout at the 16:11 mark of the first half.
The Tar Heels never led in the first half getting outscored 32-26.
Eventually North Carolina clawed its way back and tied the game up at 42 points with almost 13 minutes remaining in the second half before winning in overtime.
"Needless to say, it wasn't very pretty, until for the overtime part, but during the overtime part, it was pretty," said Williams.
"We feel very fortunate. We didn't play nearly as well as we wanted t oplay but in the overtime, everything we did ended up being ok for us."
UNC's best five minutes of basketball came in the overtime period where they shot 83 percent as a team connected on 6-8 from the free throw line.
UNC was without their third leading scorer P.J. Hairston who missed the game due to the lingering effects of a concussion he suffered in UNC's last game against Boston College.
"You've got to win when some of your guys aren't playing well and you don't have everybody," said Williams. "We didn't have P.J. and Reggie (Bullock) and Leslie (McDonald) were 1-for-13 from the three-point line."
The Tar Heels did get back the services of Leslie McDonald who missed the last six UNC games due to a knee injury and a team suspension.
McDonald scored 6 points in 25 minutes.
The story of the game, aside from UNC's slow start was UNC's ability to slow down Virginia Tech's Erick Green. Green came into the game as the NCAA's leading scorer. He was held to just 16 points, well below his season average of 25.5. Green only shot 33 percent against North Carolina, only the third time all season he's shot below 40 percent and only the second time he's been held below 20 points.
UNC used Dexter Strickland to guard the prolific scorer for much of the game.
While it was Strickland who spent the majority of the minutes played on Green, it was Reggie Bullock who kept a hand in Green's face as he attempted a potential game winning shot. Green's shot missed and after a failed UNC attempt to score with two seconds left, the game went to overtime.
Williams talked about the team strategy for keeping Green from lighting up North Carolina the way he has done to past opponents.
"We tried to keep fresh guys on him but nothing really works because he's really, really good," said Williams. "They set a lot of screens which are hard to get through. Reggie (Bullock) has a little more size and Marcus (Paige) did a good job guarding him, but everyone has to be aware and stay in a stance."
"I feel good about the job we did, but he is hard to guard," Williams continued with his praise. "I think he's a lead player."
"We did a great job as a team of containing them and forcing them to take tough shots," said Strickland about his effort and the efforts of his teammates in containing Green.
Green was held without a field goal by North Carolina for 19:45, a streak that started in the second half and ended in overtime.
Williams took time to praise his team's leading scorer while also admitting he didn't start off the game happy with the effort he received from McAdoo.
"I was frustrated towards the end because James (McAdoo) turned it over and then Marcus (Paige) turned it over, which was three of
our last four possessions," said Williams.
"To be honest, I felt lucky to be in the overtime. I told the team, this will be good for us."
McAdoo was UNC's leading scorer finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
McAdoo only shot 7-20 against Boston College but was much more efficient against Virginia Tech. McAdoo shot 8-12 and controlled the paint area on the offensive end by hitting mid-range jumpers when left open and driving to the basket aggressively when a defender jumped out on him. McAdoo also shot 6-9 from the free throw line.
"He showed a lot of discipline and maturity the whole game because I was so mad at him in the first five minutes," said Williams about McAdoo. "He tried to dribble through a crowd and had Marucs wide-open on the edge, so I sat him down and let him think about it."
This had come after Williams apparently spent some time Friday talking to his team about taking good shots and taking them when they have them.
"We talked yesterday about everybody taking good shots and good shots are where your feet are set and you have a strong base," said Williams. "I thought he was sensational after the first five minutes. He can shoot the ball, but his problem is that he really rushes. He carried us in the long stretch."
McAdoo was critical of his own performance early in the game during his post-game comments.
"I don't know what was up with me. I played horrible the first three minutes or so, but Coach (Williams) put me down and other guys came in and stepped up," said McAdoo. "I tried to come back in refocused and make up for all the mistakes I was making early on, try to make winning plays."
McAdoo has been touted as UNC's most talented player all season long. Even so, he recognizes the talent that surrounds him on the court.
"It helps show us how much room for improvement we have, but also, how talented we can be when we do play together as a team," said McAdoo. "I think we really saw that in the second half."
This was the first time McAdoo scored more than 20 points since he scored a career-high 26 against Gardner-Webb in the season opener.
Marcus Paige had a solid performance scoring a career-high 19 points, hitting four three-pointers and dishing out five assists with only two turnovers.
"I've said all along he's going to be a great player. It's hard to jump from high school basketball to the ACC but it's been a big challenge," said Williams about Paige.
Paige played especially well in overtime by hitting a crucial three-pointer after a turnover nearly gave Virginia Tech a chance to win it in regulation.
"After that last defensive possession I was praying that he would miss it because that would have been devastating to me," said Paige. "Just to see that ball not go in and know that we had another chance to come out and regroup and try to get the win was big."
Paige's performance was given praise by not only his head coach but also his teammates.
"It was very important for him to do that," said Strickland of Paige's three-pointer in overtime. "He stepped up and made big shots. He's a great shooter and he proved that tonight. He's a freshman, so it's scary that he can step it up like that and knock down big shots late in overtime. Hopefully he can continue to do that."
Paige outscored the Hokies 8-5 by himself in overtime.
Jackson Simmons, who has given UNC a great energy player off the bench, was in foul trouble for much of the game. He played 18 minutes and finished with four fouls. Simmons scored two points and grabbed three rebounds.
Virginia Tech's Jarell Eddie had 15 points and four rebounds. Eddie's teammate Cadarian Raines had 12 points and six rebounds.
The Tar Heels are now 7-7 under Williams in overtime games. This was UNC's first home overtime victory since beating Clemson in 2008.
UNC is now 15-6 overall and 5-3 in the ACC. They advance to 9-1 at home.
UNC's next opponent will be Wake Forest Wednesday night in Chapel Hill at 7 p.m.