Adjustments key for Tar Heels in win over Boston College

Jan. 18, 2014 @ 08:24 PM

Facing the first 0-4 ACC start in school history, something had to change for North Carolina.

Coach Roy Williams changed the lineup, giving senior guard Leslie McDonald his first start of the season in place of freshman Nate Britt.

Junior forward James Michael McAdoo said an increase in effort was needed too. The Tar Heels got it Saturday, defeating Boston College 82-71 to snap their longest losing streak since the 2009-2010 season.

Marcus Paige led North Carolina (11-6, 1-3) with 21 points and McAdoo finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks.

McAdoo said the Tar Heels lacked concentration in consecutive ACC losses to Wake Forest, Miami and Syracuse.

“We really just tried to do what we know we’re capable of doing,” McAdoo said of the performance Saturday.

What North Carolina did against Boston College (5-13, 1-4) included shooting more efficiently, posting a 52.7 percentage from the field. The 82 points were the most for the Tar Heels in ACC play this season.

“I’m very, very pleased,” said Williams. “Relieved — put any adjective you want to in there  — it was a much better feeling in that locker room.”

North Carolina jumped out to a 20-9 advantage in the first half, but watched that lead shrink to four by halftime. The Tar Heels used a 15-6 run in the second half to build a 71-61 lead, capped by a McDonald 3-pointer.

Junior forward Jackson Simmons was the other new addition to the starting five along with McDonald. But Simmons suffered a nasty cut on his face that required stitches in the first minute and a half and didn’t return until the 11:01 mark of the first.

McDonald scored 10 points and tallied four assists, but was missing in action for about seven minutes after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.

“More shooters,” J.P. Tokoto said of having McDonald in the starting rotation, “more 3-pointers, more room to spread the floor which makes it a lot easier to penetrate and kick.”

Tokoto was one of five Tar Heels to score in double figures, finishing with 14. He added six assists, five rebounds and three steals.

North Carolina shot 4-of-12 from long range and only attempted four 3s in the second half as players like freshman big man Kennedy Meeks got involved. Meeks scored each of his 10 points in the second half and grabbed six rebounds.

“I thought there were times when we looked really good,” said Williams. “Kennedy gave us a huge lift. Kennedy does give us the ability inside to score a little more.”

North Carolina scored 24 points off turnovers and limited the production of the Eagles’ top threats, sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan and junior forward Ryan Anderson.

Tokoto spent much of his afternoon on the dangerous Hanlan, who entered the contest averaging 19.1 points. Hanlan scored 16 Saturday, shooting 3-of-9 from the field.

“J.P. on defense is getting better and better,” said Williams. “Each game he’s getting better and better. We need him to do that.”

North Carolina has a quick turnaround, heading to Virginia Monday for a date with the Cavaliers (13-5, 4-1), who knocked off Florida State 78-66 Saturday.

Notes
— J.F. Webb product Isaiah Hicks had an assist, a turnover and was 0-of-1 from the field in seven minutes of action for North Carolina.
— Tokoto misfired on a pair of would-be spectacular dunks in both the first and second halves. Williams joked after the game he needed to work with the sophomore forward on his finishes.
— McAdoo is four points shy of becoming UNC’s 69th player with 1,000 career points.
— The Belk Bowl champion Tar Heels football team was honored at halftime.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.