Roy Williams remained steady in his assertion that his 2012-13 squad was a good outside shooting team despite the Tar Heels missing 30 of their first 40 3-pointers on the season. During the few stretches that UNC pieced together a string of treys, however, the offense was explosively efficient.
The 3-pointers started to fall a little more than four minutes into the second half of Friday’s win at Long Beach State. Between that point and halftime of Wednesday’s 112-70 victory over Chaminade, the Tar Heels had connected on 38 of their 76 3-pointers, good for 50 percent.
Against the Silverswords, North Carolina forced the defense to extend past the 3-point line after knocking down its first five treys.
“When any team shoots the ball that well, it makes it incredibly hard to guard,” Chaminade head coach Eric Bovaird told reporters during his postgame press conference at the Lahaina Civic Center. “I think they were 9-for- at some point. When you shoot the ball that well, it spreads out the court and then they can dump it in to the big guys.
“We were kind of hoping that they would come out cold and we could maybe pack in a zone.”
The result was more room to operate on the blocks for James Michael McAdoo, who scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the first half.
“When our perimeter players are making threes, it just makes it a lot easier for me and the other big guys,” McAdoo said following the game. “We don’t have to score the ball and it makes the game a lot easier when they’re knocking down threes. And it does help us, when we do need to establish an inside presence, to just have so much more time and room to operate when they’re spacing out the floor and having to draw a defender.”
UNC’s 9-of-12 first-half effort from deep arrived courtesy of a quartet of shooters. Reggie Bullock (17 points) connected on three 3-pointers for the fourth time in five games, while Leslie McDonald, Marcus Paige and P.J. Hairston continued their warming trend with a combined six made treys on nine attempts.
“I came out shooting the ball well in the first couple of minutes of the game, so once I get going, my teammates on the bench see me knocking down shots and it gives them confidence to be able to knock down shots and pull the trigger,” Bullock said.
North Carolina cooled after halftime (4-of-15) to finish with a 13-of-27 performance from the 3-point line. UNC has made 10 or more treys in three of its last four games.
The Tar Heels have worked predominantly from the inside out ever since Williams returned to Chapel Hill in 2003. There is no Tyler Hansbrough or Tyler Zeller on this current team, however. McAdoo is a different type of low post scorer who is still learning how to match his strengths with UNC’s offensive approach.
While that adaptation is ongoing, the Tar Heels will have to balance its perimeter and post games to be effective offensively.
“Our big men expect us to shoot the ball if we’re wide open, but if we’ve got a contested jump shot, we’re definitely going to get it down low,” Bullock said. “I feel like our big men believe in us to take shots and make them, so that’s what we were trying to do to just build confidence for everybody.”
A crucial detail, of course, is the quality of UNC’s competition over the past four games. North Carolina shot lights out against Long Beach State, an undermanned Mississippi State squad and a Division II opponent. The Tar Heels’ lone contest against legitimate NCAA Tournament competition came on Tuesday (Butler), a game in which UNC missed 15 of its 22 3-pointers.
North Carolina will have to be much more efficient beyond the arc in the next game on its schedule – a ACC/Big Ten matchup at top-ranked Indiana on Tuesday.
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