With 4:22 left in the first half, James Michael McAdoo dove on the floor after a rebound, secured it and called a timeout to preserve the possession. That play drew a huge roar from the Smith Center crowd and had Roy Williams hop skipping into the court to greet his junior forward. Out of that timeout Nate Britt hit a three point to push the UNC lead to 15. McAdoo's effort on that possession was a microcosm of how he played the whole night and fueled UNC to an 80-61 win over Clemson. It was UNC's 57th straight win over the Tigers in Chapel Hill.
McAdoo probably played his best game of the season both in terms of actual offensive production and what he brought to the table in terms of effort and intensity. McAdoo attacked the Clemson defense in a variety of ways hitting a mix of jumpers and slashing to the basket. The free throw shooting was still a question mark at 4-10 from the line but his 9-13 shooting from the floor more than made up for it. This performance from McAdoo caps off a four game stretch where he has shot 27-44(61%) from the floor.
With McAdoo setting the tone, other players did their part to carry the offense against the seventh best defensive team in the country. Leslie McDonald, who has been in a woeful shooting slump for several games and often pressing for his shot outside the flow of the offense, found his rhythm early. McDonald made the most of open looks afforded to him the team's offensive execution hitting two threes and scoring 12 points. Likewise Marcus Paige shook off a 1-6 start for the game to go 4-5 in the second half including a trio of three pointers as UNC stretched a 16 point halftime lead to as many as 31.
In addition to the trio of Paige, McAdoo and McDonald playing well, the Tar Heel got solid efforts from several players. Kennedy Meeks looked much better getting the start for the first time since the loss at Wake Forest. While Meeks still struggled at times with some plays around the rim, he finished in double figures for a third straight game scoring 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds. J.P. Tokoto had a well-rounded game with seven rebounds, four assists and only committing one turnover. Even little used James Manor go into the act with a pair of threes in the final minute.
While the "sense of urgency" this team played with is the storyline of this game, UNC's ability to sustain effort and offensive production in the middle portion of the game is greatly underrated. The Tar Heels have shown an ability to play well early in games but flounder in the back half of the first period then watch the game slip away in the first ten minutes of the second half. In this game UNC pushed through that barrier turning a 14-13 lead with 11:21 left in the first half into a 61-31 lead with ten minutes left in the game. UNC outscored Clemson 47-18 over a 21 minute stretch spanning the "middle" of the game. After the contest was well in hand, the Tar Heels were on cruise control to finish out their 12th win of the season.
UNC moves to 2-4 in the ACC and got a crucial win at the start of a critical four game stretch where UNC plays three of four at home. The dominant question being asked of the players following this win is how will they sustain the effort they displayed tonight when the next game comes.Leslie McDonald said this game should be a lesson in that respect.
"It should be instilled in our brain. We should always have that sense of urgency. This should be a lesson, this game. We beat a good team. This was a good team that beat Duke. Give them a credit, they're a good team. You are just seeing that sense of urgency we had. We jumped on them. If that's what's going to happen and that's what's going to be the outcome then we need to learn from that. We need to bring that every game so we can get these wins."
Kennedy Meeks said the team watched parts of the wins over Michigan State and Louisville to get a sense of what they were capable of doing. This game can be added to that list of examples of this team's potential, IF, they play at this level of intensity going forward.