BLACKSBURG, Va. – North Carolina’s 11th straight victory gave the Tar Heels one of the top four seeds in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and a bye to the quarterfinals.
Quite a turnaround for a team that started 1-4 in conference play.
James Michael McAdoo scored 15 points to lead No. 19 North Carolina past Virginia Tech, 60-56, on Saturday.
“I don’t know that I care that much about getting a bye,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “I care more about that meaning that you’ve had a pretty good run. I like winning games.”
McAdoo went 6-of-9 from the floor for the Tar Heels (22-7, 12-4), who haven’t won this many games in a row since opening the 2008-09 season with 13 straight victories.
McAdoo scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, including 10 after the Hokies had cut the Tar Heel lead to 42-40 on a basket by Jarell Eddie with 8:54 remaining in the game.
North Carolina answered with seven straight points, with McAdoo scoring the last two points on a basket with 6:57 to play to make it 49-40.
“We knew from the get-go that this was a great team we were going to play,” McAdoo said. “Even though their record may not show it, they have the pieces that make up a great team - from outside shooting to big guys that can score the ball. Their 2-3 zone frustrated us at times, but we were still able to come in here and get a win.”
Leslie McDonald added 14 points and J.P. Tokoto finished with 12 for North Carolina, which defeated rival N.C. State in a one-point, overtime thriller three days earlier.
“You have to understand that you’re going to go through a season, and sometimes you’re going to play really well,” Williams said. “You hope you win those games. Sometimes, you can lose those, but you hope to win. But to have a great year, you’ve got to win a lot of games ugly. That’s the way I look at it.”
Eddie led Virginia Tech (9-19, 2-14 ACC) with 18 points.
“When we made our runs, they always seemed to have a guy make a play, whether it was McDonald or (Marcus) Paige or McAdoo,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. “They made plays, and they have several guys who can make them.”
After trailing, 28-21, at halftime, the Hokies tied the game at 36 when Devin Wilson’s three-pointer with 12:16 remaining capped an 11-2 run.
Tokoto hit a three-pointer for the Tar Heels to end the run, and North Carolina did not trail again.
Virginia Tech cut the lead to 58-54 on a three-pointer by Eddie with 40 seconds remaining in the contest, and then, McDonald missed two free throws with 35.8 seconds to go, giving the Hokies a chance.
But Eddie missed a three-pointer with 19 seconds to go, and McAdoo hit the first of two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to push the lead to 59-54.
A lay-up by Eddie cut the lead to 59-56 with 5.6 seconds remaining, but McDonald made the second of two free throws with 4.8 seconds to go to seal it for the Tar Heels.
“I did some great coaching there. I screamed at Leslie and told him to make the free throw,” Williams joked.
North Carolina won despite an off game from star point guard Marcus Paige. Coming off a 35-point outing in the Tar Heels’ win against N.C. State on Wednesday, the sophomore scored just nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from the floor. He had one assist in 30 minutes.