CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina has beaten three highly ranked teams, lost to three unranked ones and played through uncertainty about the status of two players during an eventful non-conference schedule.
Now the 19th-ranked Tar Heels can focus on the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play.
James Michael McAdoo had 23 points and 10 rebounds to help North Carolina beat UNC Wilmington 84-51 on Tuesday night to become the third program to reach 2,100 victories.
Marcus Paige scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half to help the Tar Heels (10-3) shake free from a slow start and blow open the game. North Carolina shot 63 percent in the second half to join Kentucky and Kansas as the only programs with 2,100 victories heading into Sunday's ACC opener at Wake Forest.
"I think this team understands that we've got to play better every day and work harder, and I think they're doing that," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "... No coach is ever going to say that they're satisfied with where they stand unless you're 13-0 and beating everybody by a million."
The Tar Heels have beaten then-No. 1 Michigan State, then-No. 3 Louisville and preseason No. 1 Kentucky so far this season. They have lost at home to Belmont and Texas, and at UAB. And they did all that while the school worked to resolve NCAA eligibility concerns for leading scorer P.J. Hairston and senior Leslie McDonald.
McDonald returned after nine games and the school announced Dec. 20 that it wouldn't seek reinstatement for Hairston due to numerous rule violations to cap a volatile few months.
At the minimum, the Tar Heels built some momentum with better second-half play against the Seahawks (6-9) that included better defensive intensity, getting out in transition and plenty of dunks to turn the game into a rout.
The Tar Heels were coming off a lackluster showing Friday in a victory over Northern Kentucky, a performance that irked Williams so much that he said he wanted to make his team run sprints during halftime.
UNC didn't look sharp early against UNCW and led just 31-23 at halftime despite the Seahawks struggling badly with their shooting.
Paige said some of the first-half problems from Tuesday -- not getting good shots, turning the ball over, not moving the ball enough -- are "easy fixes" as opposed to not playing with enough effort.
"We were playing hard, we were getting to the right spots defensively and it wasn't a matter of this team wants it more than us," Paige said. "So that was the biggest thing we needed to address, and I think we addressed that.
"Now the Xs and Os, the turnovers, the sloppiness, the failure to get the shot everybody wants, that can be fixed a lot easier."
It marked the third time in the past five decades that UNC has hosted a game on New Year's Eve, though there were plenty of empty seats with the afternoon tipoff time and students still on Christmas break.
Students standing on the risers behind one of the baskets wore party hats, while the Tar Heels wore their road blue uniforms at home for only the second time in program history -- the other was in 1990 -- to make it feel a bit more like a special event.
The Tar Heels at least treated the crowd to a dominating second-half performance, outscoring the Seahawks 53-28 with eight dunks.
Cedrick Williams had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Seahawks, who are coached by former UNC player Buzz Peterson. UNCW lost its fourth straight and fell to 1-24 against ranked opponents heading into its Colonial Athletic Association opener against James Madison.
The Seahawks shot 31 percent, going 9 for 36 (25 percent) in the opening 20 minutes and missing 14 of 17 3-point tries. UNCW had 17 turnovers that North Carolina converted into 25 points.
UNCW missed its first 13 shots and 18 of 19 to start the game.
"We haven't shot the ball all year well, but sometimes you start missing like that and you start pressing a little bit more and that goal gets tighter and tighter," Peterson said.
The game marked a homecoming for Peterson, a player on Dean Smith's first NCAA championship team in 1982 and Michael Jordan's college roommate. He coached Appalachian State here twice in the late 1990s but hadn't returned to the visiting sideline since.
The Tar Heels played their third straight game without sophomore center Joel James due to a knee injury.
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