WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Junior forward James Michael McAdoo and sophomore guard Marcus Paige keyed a second half spurt as No. 19 North Carolina broke open a close game for an 84-51 New Year's Eve decision over pesky UNCW in men's basketball Tuesday at the Dean Smith Center.
The Tar Heels shot 62.9 percent in the second half to claim their third straight triumph and raise their record to 10-3, including 3-0 against state opponents.
The Seahawks shot just 31.1 percent and concluded their non-conference schedule with a 6-9 record entering Saturday's Colonial Athletic Association opener with James Madison at Trask Coliseum. It was UNCW's fourth straight defeat since a 69-50 manhandling of Campbell back on Dec. 3 at home.
"I thought we came out with more energy and were very aggressive early," said fourth-year UNCW skipper Buzz Peterson, a 1985 UNC graduate. "We did a good job with their traps in the first half, but things were different in the second half. We can take some positive things out of this game and know that if we had made some shots and boxed out better, things might have been a little different."
The 6-9, 230-pound McAdoo, related to all-time UNC great Bob McAdoo, led all scorers with 23 points and tacked on a double double with 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Marcus Paige added 15 points and senior guard Leslie McDonald and sophomore forward Brice Johnson chipped in 14 apiece.
Junior forward Cedrick Williams paced the Seahawks with 18 points, including 12 in a big first half. Senior guard Chris Dixon was the only other UNCW player in double figures with 12 points, while redshirt freshman center C.J. Gettys set career highs for points (8), rebounds (6) and minutes (18) off the bench.
With their seventh double digit loss, UNCW matched its longest losing streak since the end of the 2012-13 season when the Seahawks closed out the year with four consecutive losses.
The Tar Heels and Seahawks struggled to find the basket in the opening period and UNC managed to forge out to a 31-23 lead at halftime. But UNC, behind the play of McAdoo and Paige, scored 12 of the first 14 points of the second half and coasted to their third victory without a loss to UNCW.
The largest lead for the Tar Heels came with 4:32 on the clock when Johnson connected along the right baseline for a 78-45 bulge.
After the Seahawks scored the final seven points of the first half to close within eight points, the Tar Heels started quickly in the final half. Paige got UNC started with a nifty layup, McAdoo scored three buckets and McDonald's basket with 15:21 remaining suddenly made the score 43-25.
A bucket by freshman forward Chuck Ogbodo and conventional three-point play by Dixon chopped the deficit to 47-32 with 12:58 left to play, but the Tar Heels went another tear to put the game out of reach.
McAdoo and Paige did most of the damage down the stretch. McAdoo wound up scoring 15 of his 23 points after the break and Paige had 12 of his 15 markers in the second stanza.
In Buzz Peterson's return to the campus where he led the Tar Heels to the 1982 NCAA title, both teams struggled from the floor early. The Seahawks missed their first 12 field goal attempts and went 2-for-20 in the opening 10 minutes. UNC, meanwhile, missed 10 of its first 17 shots and could not shake the visitors.
Williams netted UNCW's first five points and his triple with 13:21 left was the team's first basket and cut UNC's lead to 7-5.
The Tar Heels used an 11-4 run over the next six minutes to build an 18-9 advantage. McDonald scored four points on a layup and two free throws and McAdoo's jumper at 7:23 lifted UNC to a nine-point margin.
The Tar Heels were still on top, 23-16, when Roy Williams' club reeled off eight unanswered points to increase the margin to 31-16 for their largest lead of the half. Johnson's putback and free throw with 1:36 left in the opening period gave UNC its largest lead of the period.
UNCW responded, however, by scoring the final seven points of the half to slice the lead to 31-23 at intermission. Chris Dixon banged in a three-pointer in front of the UNC bench with 18 seconds on the clock and the Seahawks went into the lockerroom trailing by just eight points.
UNCW and JMU open their CAA slate with a 7 p.m. tip-off on Saturday. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, kick off their Atlantic Coast Conference slate with a Sunday test against Wake Forest at Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem.
GAME NOTES: The contest marked the second consecutive reunion game for UNCW skipper Buzz Peterson, who carried the Seahawks to his hometown of Asheville last Saturday…It was only the third meeting between the two state schools…The Seahawks are now 2-4 in New Year's Eve games after playing on the date for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign…The Tar Heels became the second straight team and fourth overall to shoot 50 percent against the Seahawks…Three UNCW starters – Shane Reybold, Freddie Jackson and Addison Spruill – failed to score…The two teams combined for 33 turnovers…UNCW went 3-for-17 from deep and UNC was 3-of-9…The benches for both teams scored 70 points…UNCW's starting guards went 1-for-16 from the floor…The Tar Heels had 20 assists on 34 buckets.