CHAPEL HILL, NC --- James Michael McAdoo made an early blunder in North Carolina's 72-60 overtime victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday that infuriated coach Roy Williams so much that he yanked the sophomore forward the next time the clock stopped.
McAdoo got the ball near the right elbow and dribbled diagonally across the lane into triple coverage. Hokies' guard Marquis Rankin reached in and stole the ball, raced up the court and Tech took a 12-0 lead when the nation's leading scorer Erick Green drained a 3-pointer.
Williams called timeout and jumped all over McAdoo, and when the Tar Heels returned to the floor, freshman Brice Johnson was in McAdoo's spot. Carolina's leading scorer didn't return to action until 11:40 remained in the half, but the message sent by the Hall of Fame coach was received.
Aside from a few mistakes, the 6-foot-9 McAdoo played very well from that point on, and was instrumental in the Tar Heels winning their fifth ACC game in their last six tries.
McAdoo finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds his eighth double-double on the season and fourth in UNC's last five games. He's had five nine-rebound games, too. But it was how McAdoo got his points that was most impressive and positive for UNC's growth.
The Hokies (11-10, 2-6 ACC) dared Carolina (15-6, 5-3) to win the game from the perimeter by throwing a 2-3 zone at the Heels. But that wasn't going to happen. UNC was without P.J. Hairston, who suffered a concussion in a win at Boston College during the week after he scored 14 points in 12 minutes, and veterans Reggie Bullock (1-for-8) and Leslie McDonald (0-5) struggled from the perimeter.
Freshman Marcus Paige drained four 3s, but for the most part, Virginia Tech accomplished its mission, with the exception of stopping McAdoo.
The zone forced McAdoo to play higher than he usually does, and while it took him a series of possessions to attain the discipline Williams wanted, he eventually made the Hokies pay.
Anxious to dribble any time he gets the ball more than a few feet from the basket, McAdoo started catching, squaring and shooting 15-footers. He also started making them.
"At first I struggled with it, but we knew how to attack it, we've been practicing (against) it, we knew it was going to be extended," McAdoo said. "So I just tried to camp out in the middle and when my shot wasn't there, kick it out to Marcus, Reggie, Dexter, guys to make plays."
But the others didn't make a bunch of plays. Other than Paige, who had a career-high 19 points, they eventually relied on McAdoo, and he came through.
"Probably my whole career at UNC," McAdoo responded when asked if that's the best he felt shooting the ball in college. "It just felt good. I've been really trying to work hard on that. God is good. Coach (Hubert) Davis and the coaching staff have just really been helping me persevere through these tough stretches."
McAdoo hit four jumpers three in the second half from just inside the foul line. This aspect of his game had been lacking, but moving forward will only make the Tar Heels a better team, especially when teams test them with zone. But also in man-to-man.
Williams is fine with McAdoo putting the ball on the floor and going to the rim, but there's a judgment element to that, and he hasn't always made sound decisions. When he shows defenses he can hit the catch-and-pop jumper, they'll have to play up and honor him, opening up a more-direct driving lane to the rim if he can get the first step on defenders.
It also opens up the baseline to teammates and some other spots inside zone defenses, one of which Paige used to hit a couple of key late jumpers.
McAdoo knows he's more accurate shooting the ball without taking a dribble, but his instincts still tell him to pound the ball on the floor and move. Williams knows this, and it's why he praised the Virginia native's self-control.
"He showed a lot of discipline and a lot of maturity the whole game," Williams said before alluding to when McAdoo wasn't. "I was so mad at him in the first five minutes of the game I took him and let him sit there for a while because he tried to dribble through a crowd and he's got Marcus wide open on the edge over there and another time he did the same kind of thing. ...
"But I thought after the first five minutes James Michael . . . was sensational for us."
Saturday's UNC victory wasn't exactly one for the ages, but McAdoo hitting those jump shots and exhibiting such discipline is an important step in his personal growth. And given that he's an NBA lottery pick when he leaves school, that's an important step in the right direction for North Carolina, too.