Current Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2013 10:58:14 -0500
It was a homecoming of sorts for Alabama-Birmingham head coach Jerod Haase and his director of basketball operations Bobby Frasor. But after a warm pre-game welcome from the Tar Heel crowd, the North Carolina men’s basketball team was not the most accommodating host.
With the help of a 67-point second half that included seven made 3-pointers, the Tar Heels handled the Blazers 102-84.
“The weird thing is, I had been the head coach of the JV team for five years, so being out on the Smith Center and coached and calling plays was not foreign to me,” Haase said. “But being on the other bench certainly was. The evening and afternoon, it just a little bit odd.”
The Tar Heel lineup too looked a little bit odd.
With Marcus Paige out with a shoulder injury, Williams moved Dexter Strickland to the point and inserted Leslie McDonald into the starting back court. But McDonald was more than game as he set new career highs in points and assists with a 24 and five night.
McDonald also drained five of eight shots from behind the arc.
“We were just able to space out the floor,” McDonald said. “With Strick’s ability to drive in and cause people to double down we were able to get it inside first and then throw it out – myself, Reggie (Bullock) and P.J. (Hairston) were able to shoot the ball.”
The Tar Heels (6-2) led by just six at halftime but exploded offensively in the last ten minutes to stretch the lead out to as many as 21 points. Williams however was not pleased with the defensive effort and with more than 13 minutes left in the game he snatched off his jacket to give his team a stern talking to.
After watching their coach slam a clipboard on the ground, the Tar Heels responded with a quick bucket from Strickland.
Making his first start at the point guard position, Strickland smoothed out his game in the second half. He committed four turnovers but he set a new career high in assists with nine of them. Strickland found success driving through the lane and kicking out to Hairston, McDonald and Reggie Bullock ¬– who combined to make 10 3-pointers on the night.
“I think I had, what, nine assists. I’ve never had that at Carolina,” Strickland said. “But I felt good out there. Everybody was on. Everybody was hitting. Leslie had his high…P.J. did very well coming off the bench and Reggie was knocking down shots. So I think we played well.”
The 18-point win was punctuated by an alley-oop play in transition with a minute and a half left in the game. Brice Johnson, who had his third consecutive game with 10 or more points, started the break with a block on one end and McDonald hit a leaping J.P. Tokoto for his fifth and final assist. The play put UNC in front by what would be the winning margin.