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January 22, 2013

Defense the Key to Victory

North Carolina (12-5, 2-2) pulled out a victory Saturday afternoon against Maryland, winning 62-52.

Roy Williams really wanted to focus on the first half of basketball, as the Tar Heels stormed out to an early lead with its offense, but their defense was the key to the game.

Williams will have a chance to show his team two different halves, allowing them to see how he wants his team to play and how UNC shouldn't play. The first half will be the half that UNC and their fans will look at as how they should play for a full 40 minutes.

"We don't feel good about the way we played in the second half, but the first half we were pretty good. We were so active defensively" Williams said. "Today, I think that the first half was really, really good and the second half was really, really ugly. Young guys do that."

By far, the first 20 minutes of the game was the best play of basketball by the young players. Players were draining shots, creating turnovers, being active on the defensive end, and put the throttle down against a team that was down and down early.

In the first half, UNC created 15 turnovers against Maryland, while only giving up two assists on nine field goals. While only allowing Maryland to shoot 33.3 percent from the field, UNC also had nine steals along with three blocks.

The Tar Heels were able to get out of the gate quickly, while holding Maryland scoreless for the first 3:16 of the game. UNC continued the momentum throughout, not allowing the Terrapins to gain confidence, as the Tar Heels were able to take a 24-9 lead the first part of the first half. With the lead at 15 early, UNC created eight turnovers in that span and allowed the Terps to go 4 for 13 from the field.

With Reggie Bullock stroking it in the first half for 21 points (outscoring the whole Maryland team by himself) and James Michael McAdoo contributing 11 points and five rebounds, the Tar Heels were able to get its biggest lead of 22 in the game at halftime.

Williams was impressed with Marcus Paige on the defensive side, even though he only had one steal in the game. It was more of the pressure that was forced on the guards for Maryland and Paige seemed to be around the ball at all times.

"We just came out with a lot of intensity," Paige said. "The first half was probably the best half of basketball we've played all year. Right away from the beginning, just pressuring, they did have some turnovers but we cause some of those."

Bullock and McAdoo realize that the team has to stay hungry and that there has to be a sense of urgency in this team. The two realize that this team needs to play like they did in the first half, especially on the defensive end.

"We see how good we are as a team, and if we can do that against teams like UNLV we should be able to do that against all the teams in our conference," Bullock said. "Just playing with that same sense of urgency, and once we play with that same type of game that we played against UNLV and the Florida State game, we're one of the best teams in the country."

McAdoo added "It all comes from Coach Roy, but there's carryover where we actually have to go out and there and do it. Some of the games this year we haven't done that at all, but as you can see when we do do it like in the first half, we're a great basketball team."

Williams knows what he will have to get his team in shape to play like they did in the first half. Defense is something that has been difficult for this young team to sustain, but the Tar Heels have showed glimpses of what the team could be in the future.

"I saw it last weekend, and I saw it in the first half today," Williams said about his defense. "I'm one of those guys that wants to see it all the time and no; I haven't seen it all the time."


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