CHAPEL HILL – For the first time, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo were putting up big numbers in tandem for North Carolina. It’s no coincidence the improving Tar Heels had their best scoring output in an Atlantic Coast Conference game.
Bullock scored 23 points, while McAdoo added 20 in an 87-62 win against Wake Forest on Tuesday night, the Tar Heels’ sixth win in seven games following an 0-2 league start.
North Carolina (16-6, 6-3 ACC) had little trouble against the Demon Deacons, leading by 20 points at halftime and 34 after the break for a fourth straight win in the series behind Bullock and McAdoo. Bullock broke out of a mini-slump after making just 10- of-31 shots in the past three games, while McAdoo has scored 20 points in consecutive games after failing to do so since the season opener.
It’s the first time both players have scored 20 in the same game.
“Last summer, I said they needed to be big for us every night,” coach Roy Williams said, “and they were big for us (Tuesday), to say the least.”
P.J. Hairston added 11 points for North Carolina in his return from a concussion, while 12 players scored against the Demon Deacons (10-12, 3-7).
After failing to crack 70 points in three of their first four league games, the Tar Heels have now reached 80 in three of the past four.
“We set good screens and guys came off ready to shoot,” freshman point guard Marcus Paige said. “Reggie made some big shots. When he’s shooting well, I feel like our whole offense in general just ends up being more smooth – especially with (McAdoo) being as active as he was.”
North Carolina put together a 24-5 run spanning halftime to blow the game open. The Tar Heels shot 52 percent and scored 26 points off Wake Forest’s 21 turnovers, which helped them get out in transition for easy baskets or extra looks.
“When you give a team that many easy baskets, it leads to a very high shooting percentage, and it shatters the confidence of our team, and then it snowballs from there,” Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “You can’t just give teams that many more possessions and that many easy points off turnovers.”
Freshman Devin Thomas had 11 points and 13 rebounds for Wake Forest, which hasn’t won since an 86-84 upset of N.C. State two weeks ago. The Demon Deacons continued their road struggles. They had lost by a combined 46 points at Georgia Tech and Maryland since the N.C. State win.
This one didn’t go any better. Wake Forest – now 1-7 on the road – finished the first half with more turnovers (13) than field goals (9), while the Tar Heels converted those miscues into 18 points that helped them shoot 62 percent (18-of-29) in the first 20 minutes.
The Tar Heels held Wake Forest without a field goal for nearly six minutes to end the half during a 15-1 run that pushed the lead to double figures. Bullock scored seven in that flurry, including a straightaway 3-pointer that caught the front of the rim, bounced softly into the air and dropped through the net just before the horn for a 47-27 halftime lead.
Then, after consecutive baskets from Thomas, the Tar Heels ran off nine straight points to take a 56-31 lead on Paige’s transition layup with 16:49 left.
Wake Forest got no closer than 21 points the rest of the night.
“The last few games, once we get down, it goes south,” senior C.J. Harris said of the team’s road woes. “We’ve got to do a better job fighting through adversity. It’s going to happen on the road. Everybody goes on runs. We have to throw a punch back.”
Hairston’s return offered a boost for the Tar Heels considering Williams had said Monday he was “highly unlikely” to play.
The sophomore was hurt when he collided with teammate Dexter Strickland last week at Boston College, then sat out of last weekend’s overtime win against Virginia Tech.
Hairston said he had headaches for several days and started feeling better Sunday before coming down with a flu-like bug that had him throwing up and eventually taking IV fluids. He was cleared to return from the concussion before tipoff and played 12 minutes.
“Sunday came and I felt fine,” Hairston said with a laugh. “I went out and I put up a lot of shots and thought I was going to be fine for Tuesday. Then I came down with this bug. I’m like, ‘OK, I just can’t win.’”