Current Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2014 20:32:04 -0400
It was the same routine, same Smith Center crowd. Before North Carolina’s 76-59 win against Gardner Webb on Friday, the Carolina blue clad fans behind the basket jumped around as the ball was tipped to begin the Tar Heels’ 2011-12 campaign, just as they always do.
This time, it all looked a little bit different to sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo.
Now a starter, McAdoo has a lot of pressure on him to perform. On a UNC team that began last season with three preseason all-ACC players, and has since lost them, McAdoo is expected to carry a big load for the rebuilding Tar Heels.
In his first game with new responsibilities, he didn’t disappoint.
McAdoo finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds in UNC’s season opening victory, leaping past his previous career-high scoring total of 17.
McAdoo said he can hardly believe the progress he’s made since last season’s season-opener, when the freshman scored four points in 17 minutes on the court.
“I feel like they’re night and day,” McAdoo said. “Now I know what I’m capable of doing, as opposed to last year I was just going out there trying to find a loose ball here and there, just trying to fit in.”
Though Williams has spoken highly of the shooting capabilities of his team, the Tar Heels struggled to sink outside shots, finishing 46 percent from the field on the night. They made just one of 12 3-pointers.
Instead, UNC relied on its big man under the basket. The team scored 52 points in the paint.
Williams said Bullock, who finished with just five points, was “unselfish to a fault,” adding that he expects the junior to help to share the scoring load this season.
“He and James Michael are going to be asked to do a lot,” Williams said. “They’re the two guys who have had success in a complementary role, now they’ve got to have success with the other team really focusing on them.”
Despite the new responsibilities, McAdoo isn’t worrying about the expectations placed on him or feeling the pressure left behind from the now departed high-achieving trio.
Because even though he’s only got a year under his belt, McAdoo has been tapped to help lead a young team. It’s a role he cherishes.
“Me and him and Dexter, we’re veterans on the team and we’ve played a lot of minutes for coach and we know what coach wants,” Bullock said. “Us three together should be able to help balance this team out and just play our game.”