North Carolina Tar Heels: Sandro Carissimo

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Early this season, North Carolina coach Roy Williams admitted that his was a team that needed to find a ways to create energy.

Friday, during the top-seeded Tar Heels’ 77-58 victory over No. 16 seed Vermont in the NCAA tournament, freshman James Michael McAdoo served as a much-needed electricity bolt.

With the Tar Heels seemingly content to cling to a 10-to-13-point lead – and little animation radiating from a less-than-capacity Greensboro Coliseum crowd -- the forward converted back-to-back 3-point plays midway through second half. That jump-started a 12-2 UNC run that gave the Tar Heels a 23-point lead – and everyone an intensity boost.

“I feel like it was a good turning point in the game,” said McAdoo, who finished with a career-high 17 points. “We had been getting little chippies that hadn’t been going in, and the coaches just told us to keep going to the boards, keep working. And getting those two and-ones just showed us what we could do.”

McAdoo started his third consecutive game in place of ACC Defensive Player of Year John Henson – who was a scratch after UNC’s Friday morning shootaround. Williams put the junior through a series of drills and decided Henson still didn’t look comfortable enough using his sprained left wrist.

“It has gotten a little bit better each day and every day, but it hasn’t gotten better at the same rate as it was earlier in the week,’’ Williams said of the wrist, which Henson hurt in the ACC tournament quarterfinals last Friday. " ... If it continues, I would say it’s a little better than 50-50 that he would play Sunday [against eighth-seeded Creighton]. But if he still feels the same way, I won’t play him.”

With Henson cheering him on from the bench in a coat and tie, McAdoo said he didn’t have any nerves playing in his first NCAA tournament game.

[+] EnlargeTyler Zeller
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeTyler Zeller scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds against Vermont.
But he had a frustrating start, missing his first four shots (all in the lane) before getting a roughly-six minute break on the bench. When he checked back in, he made two free throws, and then made a steal before spiking home a crowd-gasping dunk off a Reggie Bullock miss. That gave his team a 15-9 lead, but it didn’t ignite the blowout, then, that one might have thought.

Still leading only by two points late in the first half, UNC finally pulled away using a Tyler Zeller-spurred 12-4 run to gain some-much-needed breathing room (and finally a double-digit lead, 31-21).

But it wasn’t until the second half, which McAdoo started with a jumper, that the Tar Heels broke finally the game open, then sealed it for good.

Guard Sandro Carissimo led Vermont (which shot only 39.7 percent) with 11 points.

Zeller finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds; Harrison Barnes added 14 points and point guard Kendall Marshall had 11 points and 10 assists.

But McAdoo – who also had 6 rebounds and 4 steals – created the much-needed energy surge.

“I thought James Michael was sensational in the second half,’’ Williams said. “The first half he was 1-for-6 and had good shots. But the second half he made a bunch of those, and five offensive rebounds. … We’re happy that we’re one of the 32 that are still playing.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Instant analysis from North Carolina's win against Vermont:

Overview: Unlike the ACC tournament final last weekend, the top-seeded Tar Heels didn’t even bother to have starting forward John Henson (who missed his third straight game because of a sprained left wrist) in uniform in case of an “emergency” situation.

And despite some sloppy play early, they didn’t need their 6-foot-11 ACC Defensive Player of the Year to advance.

UNC shot poorly early and committed 24 turnovers. But it got a career-high 17 points from freshman James Michael McAdoo, who started his third straight game in place of Henson, and created a much-needed energy-boost for his team in the second half.

Sandro Carissimo led No. 16 seed Vermont with 11 points.

Turning point(s): Leading 19-17, the Tar Heels finally created some much-needed separation with a 12-4 run that included seven points from senior 7-footer Tyler Zeller. That gave UNC its first double-digit lead (31-21) with about 2 minutes left in the first half.

Then, with UNC still only ahead by 13, McAdoo converted a pair of three-point plays, and freshman P.J. Hairston added a 3-pointer for a 9-2 run that pushed the Tar Heels ahead 57-37 with about 8 minutes left.

Key player: Zeller finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. He also blocked two Vermont players on the same possession with 14:40 left, further stuffing the stat sheet.

Key stat: Vermont shot worse than 40 percent for the game, and made only 3 of 18 3-point attempts.

Miscellaneous: It was surprising how many empty seats there were for this game, considering Greensboro Coliseum is only about an hour’s drive from Chapel Hill, N.C. … UNC point guard Kendall Marshall’s four first-half assists pushed him past Southern’s Avery Johnson for fourth on the NCAA’s all-time list for assists in a season. Marshall, who already set the school and ACC records this season, entered the game with 330, and finished with 10. ... UNC forward Harrison Barnes had made only 4 of his 23 3-point attempts over his pevious six games. He was 1-for-3 on Friday.

What’s next: UNC will play eighth-seeded Creighton -- which topped Alabama 58-57 in the early game -- on Sunday at Greensboro Coliseum. The winner will advance to the Midwest Region semifinals in St. Louis.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.