Eight Tar Heels scored in the first eight minutes of Tuesday’s 87-62 win, UNC’s sixth in seven games. That total would increase to 10 before halftime arrived and extended to 12 by the time the game clock zeroed out.
Yes, the opponent was the woeful Demon Deacons, a squad that had allowed its first nine ACC opponents to collectively shoot 48.4 percent from the floor.
The Tar Heels, however, shot 62.1 percent (18-of-29) in the first half and were still at 59.6 percent with five minutes left to play before missing nine of their last 10 field goal attempts. UNC converted defense into offense with 26 points off 21 Wake Forest turnovers.
With seemingly everyone scoring at will, the Demon Deacons were at a loss on the defensive end.
“It makes it a lot harder to guard when you have everyone pitching in,” freshman point guard Marcus Paige told reporters following the game. “Everyone’s active, everyone’s getting assists, the ball is not getting stuck in anybody’s hands, everyone’s moving. That kind of offense is really tough to defend, especially with the depth and talent that we have.”
As the night wore on, McAdoo (20 points, 7-of-12) and Bullock (23 points, 7-of-10) asserted themselves and scored 29 points over the final 25:32, turning a six-point game into a rout.
“Reggie and James Michael were big for us tonight,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “Last summer I said they needed to be big for us every night and they were big for us tonight, to say the least.”
While Bullock and McAdoo both scoring 20 or more points for the first time may sound like a throwaway stat, nothing more than a trivia question to pull out during the summer doldrums, there’s value in looking beyond the numbers.
It took Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes 20 games into the 2010-11 season – their first playing together – to combine for 40 points. Both acknowledged at the time there was a learning curve in play; there had to be a give-and-take as to who took command on any given possession.
Over the last 10 games of the 2010-11 campaign, Zeller and Barnes combined to average 40.7 points per game and ultimately led UNC to the Elite Eight.
Tuesday marked the second time that McAdoo and Bullock have combined for over 40 points – they scored 43 against Maryland on Jan. 19 – and their averages have been increasing. The inside-outside tandem averaged 27.1 points per game during UNC’s first 16 games. In the six games since, they have upped their combined average to 33.0.
McAdoo wasn’t sure if he and Bullock were experiencing the same type of growing pains that their predecessors encountered, but he acknowledged that their comfort level with each other had improvied.
“When both of our shots are falling, it really helps us both,” McAdoo said. “… I think we can really feed off each other’s energy where [Bullock] kind of takes over for a little bit of the game and then I kind of take over a little bit.”
Both admitted that their jobs became easier when their teammates were also scoring.
“It’s good seeing everybody on the team score,” Bullock said. “I know I’m going to get my shots; I know Mac’s going to get his shots. It’s just about us being tough to guard, setting screens for other players and setting our man up coming off the screen looking for the shot. So once we do things to help other players on our team, it’s definitely going to free us up.”
North Carolina’s 87 points are the most it’s scored in an ACC game this season. The Tar Heels were averaging 70.8 points per game entering Tuesday night.