Tar Heels turn back Wolfpack
With just under 13 minutes left in the second half, North Carolina coach Roy Williams pulled all five players who included four of his starters and then went down the bench to sternly talk to each one.
He made the move after the Tar Heels had blown a 10-point lead and had fallen behind N.C. State.
“I don’t remember what I said,” Williams said. “I was just ticked off. I thought we were getting too lackadaisical and casual in everything we did. We didn’t pick up on defense twice in a row and we had turnovers on two out of three possessions. I think when those guys came back out, they had a better sense a purpose.”
The starters returned with just under 12 minutes to go but their harder play didn’t start paying off until three minutes later, after the Wolfpack went up 55-52 with 8:05 to go. Fueled by the play of freshman point guard Marcus Paige, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Harrison, the Tar Heels scored 18 of the next 20 points over 4:30. State never recovered and Carolina waltzed to a 76-65 win at the Smith Center that moved it into third place in the ACC at 9-5 while State dropped to fifth at 8-6.
“He told us that we needed to play harder if we wanted to play,” Hairston said. “We went through a stretch where we weren’t playing hard at all. We weren’t getting through screens and that’s where Scott Wood got open (for 3 straight 3s). We got to the (under 12 minutes) media timeout and (Williams) told us this was it. We had to play harder and get stops.”
Added center James Michael McAdoo: “I don’t remember what coach said. The biggest thing is we needed to play hard because during their run, they wanted it more than us.
Bullock started the run when he hit two free throws that were part of his game-high 22 points. Paige then proved to a huge catalyst, scoring eight of his 14 points, in a showing was totally opposite of a terrible performance in the Tar Heels 91-83 loss at N.C. State on Jan. 24 that broke UNC’s 13-game winning streak over the Pack.
Paige hit a 3 that gave the Tar Heels the lead for good at 57-55. After Hairston hit two free throws and Richard Howell sank a floater that cut the lead to two, UNC score 11 straight points. Bullock canned a 3, Paige drove baseline past Wood for a 3-point play, Bullock hit a 3 and Paige hit two more free throws after getting fouled on another drive to push the lead to 70-57.
Paige also dished eight assists and had no turnovers. Bullock grabbed 13 rebounds, tying a personal best. McAdoo finished 14 points and Hairston had 12.
Carolina finished with just 10 turnovers while State committed 17, 12 of them in the first half while falling behind by six.
Wood, who hit five 3s, led the Wolfpack with 19 points. Richard Howell added 13 and grabbed 17 boards. Lorenzo Brown had 12 points and 12 assists, and T.J. Warren finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
C.J. Leslie was a nonfactor, scoring just six points, managing just four rebounds and committing six turnovers.
The loss broke a three-game winning streak for the Wolfpack.