McAdoo a star in North Carolina's win

March, 3, 2013
3/03/13
6:26
PM ET

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- James Michael McAdoo, the catalyst of North Carolina’s 79-58 victory over Florida State on Sunday, has a body language problem.

He occasionally projects a demeanor of indifference.

When his team seized a 69-48 edge following Reggie Bullock's layup with 5:08 to play, most of the Tar Heels gathered near the sideline and celebrated.

McAdoo walked across the floor the way one might stroll through the shopping mall on a quiet Sunday afternoon. But body language lies sometimes.

At times, McAdoo lacked the outward enthusiasm that his teammates demonstrated as they punched the Seminoles in the mouth for 40 minutes. But he led them with his aggressiveness.

His offensive outburst in the first half turned a close game into a thumping. McAdoo’s 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting before the break fueled the Tar Heels’ 29-11 run in the final 8:14 of the first half.

At halftime, the Tar Heels led 46-27. McAdoo started that drive and finished with 21 points.

“I really just felt really confident coming into this game. Just felt a good vibe just even during warm-ups,” McAdoo said after the game. “Just coming off that game at Clemson where I felt like I didn’t play very good. God is good. My shots were able to fall early. Everyone else played phenomenal.”

It was a fluid performance void of the theatrics some players employ in similar performances. No chest-beating, no hand signals, no 3-point goggles after big shots or scowls after his fierce dunks. Just good basketball by a young star.

“He’s not the type of person that if he dunks on somebody he’s going to yell at the top of his lungs,” said Dexter Strickland. “But he shows it through his play. And I think it was big for us tonight to come out that aggressive. It motivates everybody to have the same energy.”

McAdoo’s energy, teammates and coaches agreed, was a critical element in North Carolina’s fast start. Sure, the Tar Heels played one of their best games of the year against a struggling Florida State squad (55.4 percent from the field). But Roy Williams’ team is still adjusting to a smaller lineup that features a 6-7 guard playing forward (Reggie Bullock) next to the 6-9 McAdoo. The starting lineup also includes three guards -- P.J. Hairston, Marcus Paige and Strickland.

In a league with a 7-1 NBA prospect at Maryland (Alex Len), a pair of 6-11 forwards at Duke (Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly) and a 6-10, 300-pound wall named Reggie Johnson at Miami, North Carolina’s rotation is built for problems.

But the Tar Heels are also quicker and more versatile on offense compared to the bulk of their ACC foes. Still, McAdoo has been forced to adjust to his role in the team’s new undersized lineup.

“I’m still just getting used to matching up against a guy that’s a lot bigger than me,” he said.

The Tar Heels, however, demonstrated the lineup’s strengths against the Seminoles. McAdoo’s combination of size and athleticism frustrated Leonard Hamilton’s program. As McAdoo excelled in the post, Bullock (20 points, 4-for-7 from the 3-point line) and Hairston (16 points, 4-for-6 from beyond the arc) torched the Seminoles from the perimeter. Both Hairston and Bullock said McAdoo’s early intensity changed the entire team’s vibe.

“10-for-15 -- I want him to do that every game,” said Roy Williams. “The bottom line is he knows I want him to be aggressive, but you’ve got to make shots. And 10-for-15, to do that when the defense is aimed to stop you is pretty doggone impressive.”

In early February, McAdoo was not aggressive. He scored just 24 points combined in a rough three-game stretch. Since then, he’s recorded 14 or more in three of the team’s past four games.

The Tar Heels won’t thrive if McAdoo regresses.

As the postseason approaches, the McAdoo that led North Carolina to a win over Florida State on Sunday is the player they’ll need in the coming weeks.

“We never have energy to burn,” McAdoo said. “We’re out there trying to play as hard as we can.”

And as long as he continues to produce, McAdoo should be judged by his numbers and not his body language.

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