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November 12, 2012With the victory over Florida Atlantic on Sunday, the Heels have two games under their belt and seem to be building chemistry as a team. Now they will be heading west to face a few, more talented foes that will surely test the Heels both offensively and defensively.
Coming into the season, fans would think that the strongest area on the team would have been at the guard play, having Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston, Dexter Strickland, and Leslie McDonald all return and adding in two strong players in Marcus Paige and J.P. Tokoto.
However, the Heels have been dominating down low with the play of James Michael McAdoo and with the play of freshmen Brice Johnson and Joel James.
"He's one of our primary scorers down low, so we know he's going to take shots" said Bullock after Sunday's win against FAU. "We just have to try and help him out. The wing players, when they get the ball, they just have to try and be aggressive and make a quick move."
McAdoo had 19 points and 11 rebounds on Sunday, which was on top of his 26 point performance against Gardner-Webb.
McAdoo has been one of the best players down low so far this year and will be getting even more attention on him further down the road.
But with the play of James and Johnson, who added 23 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday, it should help take the pressure off of McAdoo and allow these two to grow.
MARCUS PAIGE GROWING UP
Paige didn't have the game that he wanted to in his first game as a Heel, when he had more turnovers than assists (0 assists compared to 4 turnovers). With his game against FAU, Mike Jarvis was determined to put some pressure on the freshman and to see if he could handle the big stage.
Overall, Paige seemed to handle the pressure very well, as FAU put a one man, full court pressure on Paige when there was a made basket. Paige was able to dish out six assists, with most of them coming when the Heels were in transition and allowing the crowd to see a glimpse of possibility when they reach ACC play.
Even though Paige was only able to score two points against FAU, he doesn't seem to be too worried about it.
"They're going to start falling, I'm not too worried about it" replied Paige. "I'm trying to take good shots and I know I got stuck in the lane a couple of times tonight but I don't think coach is too worried about it. Hopefully my confidence will stay up and I'll start knocking them down."
The rookie point guard will have to continue his growth, along with the other freshmen, which will allow the offense to run smoother and the way Roy Williams wants his team to play.
DEFENSE KEYS WIN
Defense was a huge key to the second half on Sunday, when they were able to hold FAU to 30.3 percent (27.9 percent for the game), but the intensity on both sides really seemed to change the momentum of the game.
The defense seemed to pick up in the second half of the game as the team started to widen the margin in rebounds (UNC outrebounded FAU 56-36), they were able to create 17 turnovers in the game, and add seven steals along with five blocks.
Even though coming out slow in the first half and not leading by more than eight points, Brice Johnson was able to create two turnovers at the 3:45 mark that led to two run outs and dunks, sparking the team and the crowd.
After that, UNC seemed to key on the defensive end all throughout the game, which allowed the team to stretch the lead and eventually win 80-56.
LEADERS OF THE GROUP
What this team still has to learn and gain are some leaders that they can rely on. As of right now, it seems to be Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo have fallen into that role, but they still have a lot to learn.
They were able to learn from some of the best last year, as Reggie pointed out on Sunday.
"It's still something I'm growing into. It just can't happen overnight" Reggie said about his role as a leader.
"I saw the things Tyler Zeller did last year in leading the team by example, and so I'm just trying to follow his footsteps by being a leader for this team."
Even the freshmen are starting to realize who the leaders on this team are, as Joel James commented on both of his teammates after the game.
"It's great. Reggie has been here for three years, and Mac has been here for two, so obviously they're very experienced players and they know a lot about the game. I'm still very young to the game. I started in tenth grade, so their mentality, their approach to the game is much different than mine. I just try to be a sponge and soak up as much as I can when they offer it to me."
Bullock was able to add 16 points on Sunday and will need his play to continue for the team to continue their growth.
Hairston was able to knock in a few shots, but he will need to continue shooting the rock and trying to get out of his slump that he has had so far this year.
Having Bullock and Hairston knocking down some outside shots will do wonders for this team in the long run.
Long Beach State will be the next opponent, which will definitely be a tough road trip, as Long Beach held their own last year in an 84-78 loss to the Heels.
Long Beach State is picked to win their league for the third straight year and seem to have one of the toughest SOS in the country.
This will be a true test for the Heels before their Maui trip and should show how far the Heels have come so far this season and how they will fare on the road.