Bullock shines in second game of the season

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The Tar Heels huddle before tip-off against Gardner Webb Friday. UNC defeated the Runnin’ Bulldogs 76-59 in its first game of the regular season. James Michael McAdoo led UNC with 26 points.

When Reggie Bullock took the court in Friday’s season-opener as North Carolina’s leading returning scorer, all eyes were on him to see how he’d handle the commanding role he inherited from his former teammates who left college basketball behind.

But almost every time the junior forward got the ball in Friday’s win, with it the chance to prove to the Smith Center crowd he could in fact live up to the expectations placed upon him, Bullock passed it away.

Afterwards, coach Roy Williams made sure to catch the ear of the player he deems to be the best shooter on the team.

“In practice he told me if I got an open look, I better take it,” Bullock said.

“I wasn’t looking for my shot enough (on Friday). I wasn’t being aggressive enough. I had a couple open looks, but if I catch it and I don’t feel it right, I just swing it to the next player.”

It took less than a minute Sunday during UNC’s 80-56 win against Florida Atlantic to see Bullock had changed his tune.

Less than two minutes after the opening tip-off, Bullock corralled the ball in the corner of the court opposite UNC’s bench. Without hesitation, a wide-open Bullock took the shot, and it swished for the Tar Heels’ first 3-pointer of the afternoon.

Williams said after Friday’s game he could think of at least three separate occasions during which Bullock was wide-open, but instead of taking the shot, he passed it to his teammate.

“Reggie was almost unselfish to a fault,” Williams said immediately after UNC’s 76-59 victory against Gardner-Webb. “He’s got to take a couple more shots and guys have got to be willing to screen for him and get him open, too.”

Better team work and Bullock’s heightened sense of confidence helped him finish with 16 points Sunday, three fewer than leading scorer James Michael McAdoo.

Against Gardner-Webb Bullock scored just five points on four field goal attempts. With a fast-break layup following a steal less than four minutes in on Sunday, Bullock surpassed his previous scoring total.

Bullock also hit three of the team’s six 3-pointers, the last coming on what Williams called the “best play of the day” from teammate Dexter Strickland — a cross-court pass that resulted in a 21-point lead for the Tar Heels.

For Bullock, stepping up as one of the Tar Heels’ leading scorers is about more than just getting victories. By doing so, he hopes to continue growing in his newly acquired leadership role.

Bullock takes that responsibility with pride. And even though he’s still developing his voice and his game, he’s well aware his success on the floor is important to more than just himself.

After all, Bullock’s got a lot of young eyes looking up to him.

“They look for me to take more shots. They look for me to shoot the ball. They look for me to be a leader,” Bullock said. “I believe that they want me to take those extra shots, so that’s what we’ll try to do, and take smart ones at the same time.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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