It was the 11th-seeded Friars' (23-12) final moment of respite before their crumbling 79-77 defeat. They had been leading sixth-seeded UNC (24-9) by as much as seven in the NCAA Tournament game's final five minutes. They were powered by a heroic team-on-your-back performance from senior point guard Bryce Cotton and his 36 points.
But a crucial mishap — a fifth foul by junior forward Carson Desroisers with 3.5 seconds left — brought McAdoo to the line.
"Just me, the ball and the basket," said McAdoo afterward. That was his sole focus.
He was like a kicker, trying to make a game-winning field goal from short yardage. Easy enough in theory, hard as hell in execution.
He had been iced by the referees, who looked at replays of Desrosiers' foul and bumped the game clock up from 2.8 seconds to 3.5. He had been iced by the Providence bench, who took one of its last remaining timeouts to talk everything over.
McAdoo had plenty of time to worry, to doubt himself. Fans have doubted him. Reporters have doubted him. He's received countless questions about his confidence at the line, once answering, tongue-in-check, "I feel great. Thanks for asking." He was shooting 54 percent at the line before Friday.
In the huddle, coach Roy Williams told McAdoo a story: He once had to make one putt to win $55,000 dollars for charity. Make it and win it all. Miss it and get nothing.
"I said it's a 6-foot putt, downhill, right to left, it's not the easiest putt in the world, but I'm going to make the sucker," Williams said. "I said, 'Two free throws, that's easy compared to making a putt for $55,000 dollars.
"So I was basically trying to get him to stop thinking about it so much."
McAdoo's teammates played along.
Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige tried to keep it light. He had — in typical second-half-Marcus fashion — made the game-tying 3-pointer with one minute and six seconds remaining. He's used to the tension. The staring eyes.
"We understand in those situations that the whole arena is tense, so you just want to try to break that," Paige said. "I told James Michael that all the thousands of free throws he shot throughout the season and in the offseason with coach (Hubert) Davis, if they haven't paid off before, they're about to pay off now."
McAdoo chuckled, then headed toward the line, nearly every fan standing, his parents frozen by nerves behind the Tar Heel bench.
He took one dribble, bent his knees, cocked his arms back.
"God is good," McAdoo said afterward, always forthcoming with his faith. That's a go-to phrase for him.
"I was able to step up," he said. "Hitting the first one always helps."
But the game wasn't sealed quite yet. His second free throw clanked off of the rim, and the Friars had just enough time — should they get the rebound — to toss a Hail Mary.
Instead, the ball went straight to McAdoo.
The junior, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, reached out for his second offensive rebound in the game's final four seconds. He had five for the game — after just three in his last four games — but none were bigger than that one.
He was immediately fouled, 1.7 seconds left. Back to the line.
Deja vu: Again, his first free throw arced perfectly and fell through the cylinder. 79-77. Again, the next missed its mark.
No matter. At that point, UNC could salt the game away. Cotton, who had dominated the game from the tip, couldn't hold onto the ball as it flew wildly out of bounds.
Sophomore J.P. Tokoto inbounded it to Brice Johnson, and the clock expired, sending the Tar Heels to a third-round bout with Iowa State on Sunday.
Their advancement was by no means guaranteed — they had to scratch and claw to put away a feisty Providence team that had no intention of backing down.
With clutch shooting and rebounding, Johnson was crucial in engineering UNC's comeback, and Paige delivered the game-tying 3-pointer.
But McAdoo had to drive in the dagger. He had to finish it. And he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
"Without a doubt, this is what it's all about," he said. "Just going out there. Everyone around the world, my family, my parents there right behind the bench, watching this, all eyes are on me. Just thankful to God for the opportunity and more so to knock it in."
He made the putt. Kicked the ball through the uprights. Exorcised his free-throw-shooting demons.
James Michael McAdoo made it across the tight rope, eyes open, ready to face another day.