- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- With all due respect to UAB, this isn’t usually the type of game during which North Carolina coach Roy Williams has to strip off his jacket, yell at his team in the huddle and spike a clipboard. But it was that type of game Saturday at the Smith Center.
The 14th-ranked Tar Heels, who will probably fall out of the polls Monday after last Tuesday’s blowout loss at top-ranked Indiana, beat the Blazers 102-84. But Williams’ meltdown with 13:16 left, after his team failed to get back on defense, was indicative of a frustrating outing, at least early-on, for the Tar Heels.
UNC starting point guard Marcus Paige was sidelined for this game after jamming his left shoulder in Friday’s practice. Junior guard Leslie McDonald and freshman big man Joel James made their first official starts, and usual starting shooting guard Dexter Strickland made his first start at point guard
Turning point: After UAB closed the first half with an 8-0 run, then opened the second half with two straight buckets to cut its deficit to 35-33, UNC forward James Michael McAdoo scored three of the Tar Heels’ next four buckets to give his team a 43-36 lead. The Tar Heels still had their problems in the second half -- thus, the jacket toss and clipboard spike -- but the Blazers never really threatened again. UNC pulled away for good in the final 10 minutes.
Key players: McDonald led the Tar Heels with a career-high 24 points, all but six coming in the second half. Strickland finished with a career-high nine assists. ... Jordan Swing led the Blazers with 21 points.
Key stat: UNC shot a sizzling 71.9 percent in the second half -- including 7-for-11 from 3-point land. The Tar Heels scored 67 points after halftime.
Etc.: First-year UAB coach Jerod Haase and his director of basketball operations, Bobby Frasor, received a nice “welcome back” ovation from the Smith Center crowd after their team’s starting lineup was announced. Haase played for Roy Williams at Kansas, then served as an assistant there before moving with Williams to UNC in 2003. Frasor is a former UNC point guard. This was the first game in a three-year series with UAB. … UNC junior wing Reggie Bullock, who was questionable to play after bruising two fingers during Tuesday loss at Indiana, started. P.J. Hairston, who missed the Indiana game with a mildly sprained left knee, came off the bench.
What’s next: UNC plays East Tennessee State at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday. UAB plays at Middle Tennessee State on Wednesday at 7 p.m.