CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina coach Roy Williams has wanted James Michael McAdoo to play more aggressively. It was easy to see why Sunday, when a more assertive McAdoo took it right at Florida State and sparked the Tar Heels to an easy win.
McAdoo scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half to help UNC build a big lead on the way to beating the Seminoles 79-58, its fifth straight victory.
"I really just felt really confident coming into this game," McAdoo said. "I just felt a good vibe, even during warm-ups."
It was the kind of performance that many expected on a consistent basis from the 6-foot-9 sophomore from the start of the year, though McAdoo has been up and down. But with the Tar Heels (21-8, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) playing a smaller lineup that leaves McAdoo as the de facto 5-man, it's given him the chance to use his speed to attack the rim against bigger defenders.
McAdoo did exactly that against the Seminoles (15-14, 7-9), scoring 11 during a 20-3 run that helped the Tar Heels build a 19-point halftime lead.
"The bottom line is he knows I want him to be aggressive," Williams said. "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."
Reggie Bullock added 20 points and 10 rebounds for UNC, which continued its push for a first-round bye at the league tournament in Greensboro. North Carolina shot 58 percent in the opening half, finished at 55 percent and didn't let FSU closer than a dozen after halftime.
P.J. Hairston added 16 points for the Tar Heels and hit four 3-pointers.
"Those three are our most talented scorers," said freshman point guard Marcus Paige, who had nine assists. "P.J. did it from a variety of ways today, getting to the midrange instead of just shooting 3s, and Reggie was clicking. ... And then (McAdoo), when he's making his midrange game and he's driving to the basket, he's tough to guard. When those three get going, we're a tough team to beat."
The Tar Heels have lost just once since Williams went to the smaller lineup and shortened his rotation. It's been a big reason why they've regrouped from an 0-2 ACC start as well as a 26-point beating at Miami on Feb. 9. And that's put UNC in a race with Virginia and North Carolina State for the two remaining first-round byes at the ACC tournament behind Miami and Duke.
As for Florida State, the Seminoles shot 37 percent and lost for the fifth time in seven games. Michael Snaer scored 17 to lead the Seminoles, while freshman Devon Bookert was the only other player to reach double figures with 10.
"I thought we dug a hole for ourselves during that stretch . and they hit a couple of 3s," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said of the 20-3 spurt. "As the game was going on I said, 'They've got to miss some of them.' And they kept throwing them in."
Trailing 16-15, UNC started its run with a basket from McAdoo followed by his dunk off a steal near midcourt for a three-point play. Then, after a 3-pointer from Bullock, McAdoo scored on three straight possessions - including when he dunked home a missed drive by Paige - before Bullock and Hairston closed the spurt with consecutive 3s to make it 35-19 with 3Â½ minutes left before halftime.
"It did a lot for their momentum, their crowd, their confidence," Snaer said. "You can't do that on the road."
In a sign of Florida State's struggles, the Seminoles left McAdoo unguarded on the final possession of the half. Paige raced upcourt and found McAdoo alone near the foul line for a layup that barely beat the halftime horn to give UNC a 46-27 lead.
Florida State got some good news with the return of Terrance Shannon, who had been out since January when he was carried off the court on a stretcher with a neck injury suffered against Virginia. He returned at the 8:35 mark of the opening half and finished with three points in 3 minutes.
North Carolina played without freshman guard J.P. Tokoto, who didn't dress out due to a bruised right wrist from Saturday's practice.
Tar Heels football coach Larry Fedora watched from the front row of the student risers behind the basket near the UNC bench. Fedora wore a blue visor with a wig of fake blue hair. His team opens spring practice Wednesday.
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