Bullock sparks second-half blast past N.C. State, 76-65
North Carolina’s young talent is nearly 30 games in, beginning to understand what it means to live in and embrace the moment.
The Tar Heels starters responded to a “blue team” benching by head coach Roy Williams midway the second half Saturday afternoon, roaring past N.C. State 76-65 behind 22 points and a career-high tying 13 rebounds from junior Reggie Bullock.
“We weren’t playing hard at all, fighting through screens,” said Tar Heels sophomore P.J. Hairston. “That’s how Scott Wood made those two wide open shots. After that, he told us, this is it, you’ve got to play from here on out.”
Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, Brice Johnson, James Michael McAdoo and Bullock all took a seat after a 10-point cushion had been blown and the Wolfpack (19-8, 8-6 ACC) seized a one-point lead. McDonald, Strickland, Hairston, McAdoo and Bullock returned about two minutes later, went down by four, then applied the defensive clamps in a 21-4 run to lead 70-57.
Bullock had a pair of 3-pointers, plus a pivotal offensive rebound on a missed free throw to spark the Smith Center sellout crowd of 21,750.
“That’s a sense of urgency about how to play the game,” Williams said of Bullock’s second-half stretch.
While Williams could praise a team rising, N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried was at the other end of the spectrum, particularly with C.J. Leslie, who was voted the ACC preseason player of the year.
Leslie, nearly four inches taller than his primary defender Hairston, finished with six points on 3-for-8 shooting, 0-for-4 at the foul line and just four rebounds. He had six turnovers, all in the first half.
“He’s a great player,” Gottfried said. “And great players have to step up and play. Period.
“I love him as much as anybody. When you’re a great player, you’ve got to play better. Calvin has to step up period.”
McAdoo and freshman point guard Marcus Paige added 14 points each, and Hairston finished with 12 for the Tar Heels (19-8, 9-5 ACC), who moved one-half game ahead of Virginia for third place.
“I think the biggest thing is not worrying about the future, not worrying about the tournaments, just focusing on each and every day, showing up ready to play and letting all that stuff take care of itself,” McAdoo said. “When we do that, we’re a pretty good team.”
One much better than what showed up in Raleigh last month, at one point trailing by as much as 28.
“We’re more hungry,” Bullock said. “Everytime we go out and put that North Carolina jersey on, teams are going to try to give us their best shot. We have to take it. They’re going to make their runs, we’re going to make our runs.
“We have to play with more effort and believe that we’re good. We’ve been believing these last four or five games.”
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