by Aaron Beard, The Associated Press
CHAPEL HILL -- James Michael McAdoo hit the boards, attacked the rim and looked active on defense. It helped shake the junior free of his recent struggles, not to mention help North Carolina follow its takedown of No. 1 Michigan State with an easy home win.
McAdoo had 13 points in his first double-figure scoring performance in nearly three weeks, helping the Tar Heels beat UNCG 81-50 on Saturday night.
"I think it just helps me personally get in a rhythm, getting easy buckets, getting out in the passing lanes," McAdoo said. "I feel like that's something I've always been really good at and it's something I haven't been able to do a lot this year. But I was able to get a couple of those baskets today and that really just helped me."
McAdoo led five players in double figures for the Tar Heels (6-2), who blew the game open with a 25-1 run to close the first half, including the last 20 points. UNC led by 30 at halftime and never let the Spartans (4-5) get closer than 21.
The Tar Heels again played without leading scorer P.J. Hairston and senior Leslie McDonald due to NCAA eligibility concerns. But McAdoo's surge, along with a solid first-half defensive performance, gave coach Roy Williams plenty to feel good about as UNC heads into an exam week before hosting No. 3 Kentucky next weekend.
The 6-foot-9 McAdoo had scored 21 points in the opening win against Oakland, 11 against Holy Cross and then 27 in the home loss to Belmont on Nov. 17. But he hadn't scored more than nine points since, shooting 9-for-35 (26 percent) in the past three games.
Williams said earlier this week he had met with McAdoo recently but declined to say what was discussed amid those struggles.
"I just don't want James Michael to pressure himself," he said Saturday. "Just be a basketball player and do the best you can do. If the shot's not going in, become a better defender. And that's one thing I think I've got to get him sold on - just being a better defender and let the other things come to him."
McAdoo finished with seven rebounds, two blocks and three steals in 25 minutes.
"He's such a great teammate," sophomore Marcus Paige said. "He'll do whatever it takes to win, whether it's taking a backseat role for a stretch in the game or it's being aggressive and trying to get to the free-throw line."
It was a rare by-the-book performance for the Tar Heels in a wild first month of the season.
There was the home loss to Belmont in which the Tar Heels missed 26 free throws and a loss at UAB in an emotional game for Williams against longtime assistant Jerod Haase.
Yet there was also an upset of then-No. 3 and reigning national champion Louisville, a surprising result topped only when the Tar Heels traveled to East Lansing and beat the Spartans 79-65 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday night - marking UNC's NCAA-record 13th win against the top-ranked team in The Associated Press poll.
They looked active on defense in Saturday's first half and forced 15 turnovers, converting that into 20 points while holding UNC Greensboro the final 8-plus minutes of the half without a basket.
The Spartans, coached by former Tar Heel player Wes Miller, shot just 6-for-21 (29 percent) in that first half to trail 44-14.
"Coming off a big win against Michigan State, I think they're starting to hit some strides, especially defensively," Miller said. "Their pressure and their ability to get in the passing lanes just really shell-shocked us there in the first half, especially in that last eight minutes. I thought it really kind of dismantled the things we were trying to do offensively."
Sophomore Brice Johnson scored a game-high 14 points off the bench to lead North Carolina, while Paige looked sharp on the perimeter again with 12 points, eight assists and one turnover.
UNC shot 49 percent and took a 46-28 rebounding advantage. UNC Greensboro shot 41 percent, with much of that production coming after the Tar Heels had long since put the game away.
Kyle Cain and Kayel Locke each scored 13 to lead UNC Greensboro.