You won’t mistake these Tar Heels for Georgia Tech’s famous triple threat of Brian Oliver, Kenny Anderson and Dennis Scott, but as has already been evident in the 2012-13 campaign, this Carolina Basketball team will need their own version of Lethal Weapon Three this season.
The philosophy is simple. Go inside first, second and third then work outside. Inside out, if you will. It’s the Carolina Way when it comes to basketball and it’s paid dividends on the scoreboard for years.
It's not that simple this season, though the philosophy will still hold.
The Heels have one somewhat proven big man in James Michael McAdoo, though his development as post scorer is still in progress. Brice Johnson has shown flashes and Joel James received his first start in his young career against UAB.
But when the going got tough in Maui against Butler, the Heels went small. And against the versatile Blazers coached by his prodige Jerod Haase, Roy Williams did what he has not often had to do out of necessity - go small.
“Their lineup was hard for Brice and Joel to get out on the floor and guard," Williams said of defending the UAB bigs. "They are freshmen but they are going to get better (at it). That’s what made us go small.”
In opting for a shorter lineup, the Heels had their experienced wings on the floor at the same time -- Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston joined Dexter Strickland and James Michael McAdoo on the floor for much of the second half.
Struggling with the Blazers versatility in the post, Williams went with the smaller lineup to force the mismatches back on Haase’s team.The move turned a tough grind into a comfortable win for the Heels.
“It gives us a chance to run and we use that to our advantage,” Strickland said of the switch. “Me, Leslie, Reggie P.J. and McAdoo at the same time and that’s a good lineup to just get the ball and go.”
McDonald’s 24 points led the Heels as Bullock (17) and Hairston (16) were among the team's six scorers in double figures.
Hairston steadied his early mental issues with a strong finish.
“In the first half, I was trying to see how my knee was going to feel and get more comfortable,” Hairston said. “It felt fine so in the second half I had to do more than just shoot.”
McDonald’s struggles early this season have been chronicled, Coming off a season on the sidelines from knee surgery, his trip to the starting lineup paid dividends for his confidence.
“I felt pretty good,” McDonald said postgame. “(I) just have to keep working on my shot and being consistent. I knew in the second half I had to turn it on a little bit, both defensively and offensively - being aggressive and getting my teammates open. Once you work to get your teammates open, they work to get you open.
“In my head, I couldn’t miss. Every shot I thought was going in.”
Williams added after the win, “We have guys that can shoot the ball,” “James Michael was making baskets inside. We were stretching the defense. Get Reggie, get Dexter a couple drives for layups. Get P.J. a couple drives for layups ... everything looks pretty when the ball goes in the basket.
“To shoot 72 percent in the second half and hit 11 threes (in the game), that’s impressive.”
For Carolina to build on this win, things may need to stay smaller after all. And the lethal three will need to consistently show big.