CHAPEL HILL – James Michael McAdoo had 23 points and 10 rebounds and No. 19 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 turn its final nonconference game into a rout.
The Tar Heels joined Kentucky and Kansas as the only programs with 2,100 victories heading into Sunday’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Wake Forest.
Cedrick Williams had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Seahawks (6-9), coached by former UNC player Buzz Peterson. UNCW lost its fourth straight game 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.
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 time came in 1990 — to make it feel a bit more like a special event.
The Tar Heels were coming off a lackluster showing Friday in a victory over Northern Kentucky, a performance that irked coach Roy Williams so much that he said he wanted to make his team run sprints during halftime. His team looked flat early Tuesday and failed to take advantage of a miserable shooting start by the Seahawks.
UNC led just 31-23 at halftime, but looked more active while getting out in transition more often to push the lead to 47-27 on Paige’s basket at the 13:28 mark. Then, after J.P. Tokoto threw down a transition dunk followed by an alley-oop dunk from McAdoo off a turnover, Leslie McDonald hit a 3-pointer to push UNC’s lead to 64-37 with 7:38 left.
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, who suffered a sprained ligament in his right knee early in the loss to Texas on Dec. 18.