This game actually unfolded about as you would have expected. UNC, with a fairly young team, playing on the road for the first time facing a Long Beach State team that was amped up to play. The crowd was into it and the 49ers came out with a lot of energy not to mention a solid game plan.
LBSU made it a point to stifle James Michael McAdoo and give him little room to operate. There were immediate double teams when McAdoo got the ball in the post and a concerted effort to even deny him the ball. The result was an ineffective scoring game from McAdoo in the first stanza and the Heels falling in love with the three. Well, that and the fact Marcus Paige and Reggie Bullock opened the game hitting three of them. With the frontcourt offense bottled up and three point binge, the offense was a little out of sorts and LBSU did plenty of damage on their end to open up a 29-24 lead late in the second half. The Heels responded with a 9-3 to lead at the break.
In the second half, the Heels were able to get the two parts of the offense that hadn't worked in the first half rolling. McAdoo asserted himself more and used quick shots to deny LBSU the chance to drop double teams on him. McAdoo also used some face-up moves and a quick first step to create scoring opportunities. Despite the rough first half, McAdoo effectively took the game over on his way to 18 points and 8 rebounds.
While McAdoo was doing damage on the interior, the perimeter offense came to life. Following a string of 13 missed threes, UNC reeled of 6-7 from beyond the arc. Bullock, Paige, Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston all hit threes in a four minute span that took UNC from down two to ahead by 14 with 11 minutes remaining. While the game was not over at that point, it certainly was close. The combination of McAdoo and perimeter players hitting threes proved to be too much for the 49ers who continued to fight but got no closer than ten points the rest of the way.
On the night, three other Heels joined McAdoo in double figures. Paige had 15 points and 4 assists but was a little sloppy with the ball committing five turnovers. Hairston hit three 3-pointers on his way to 14 points and Brice Johnson had ten, eight in the first half as an alternate option while McAdoo was being smothered by the LBSU defense. Bullock had nine points and three assists while Dexter Strickland dished out six assists versus three turnovers and collected six boards.
This was an excellent test for UNC at this stage of the season. The team was challenged in a hostile environment and responded. LBSU made multiple runs in the first half and pushed out to a five point lead but the Heels rallied and still led at the half. Early in the second half, the 49ers mounted their own response to UNC's early run and took a two point lead before the Heels used a 23-6 spurt to take control of the contest. In the end it was some game adversity against which the team and especially the freshmen Paige and Johnson stepped up to give UNC a huge boost.
One final note. Desmond Hubert started the game but ended up playing 11 minutes. Johnson started the second half instead of Joel James who had done so in the first two games of the season. Clearly, Roy Williams has a reason to start the game with Hubert but uses the most effective player to start the second half. It also should be noted Williams really tightened up the rotation. Neither Luke Davis or Jackson Simmons saw the floor until the very end when the game was in hand. J.P. Tokoto played some but mainly UNC used an nine man rotation. It is still early in the season but clearly this was a game Williams wanted to win.
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