by Megan Morketter, GoHeels.com
"Carolina basketball" was the coveted phrase on everyone's tongue following junior guard Reggie Bullock's career performance that led UNC to victory over Maryland on Saturday.
The atmosphere in the Smith Center was electric, and it seemed to pulse straight through Bullock's veins. He notched eight points in the first 1:30 of play and rounded out the first half with 21 points, eclipsing the Terrapins' 20.
"I wasn't thinking," said Bullock. "I was just catching the ball and shooting it. I was feeling it, trying to get the crowd in it, trying to play with a lot of emotion."
The Kinston native finished with a career-high 24 points but refused to take the credit for himself. His teammates' efforts to feed him the ball off of solid screens, he said, gave Bullock the chance to set up his shot and follow through his routine.
The ease with which Bullock was shooting took sophomore P.J. Hairston back to his younger days when the two guards would face off in high school games. They would often match point for point, so when Hairston recognized Bullock's rhythm against Maryland, he expected a show.
"Honestly," said Hairston, "I thought Reggie was going to end up with 40 points when he started off like that."
He wasn't the only one calling for a career night. Big man James Michael McAdoo, the second-leading Tar Heel scorer of the game, was the voice in Bullock's ear, "Drop 40 on them, Reg."
Though Bullock did not quite meet the goal, McAdoo acknowledged the guard's exceptional performance.
"Reggie probably had his best game in a Carolina jersey, or at least best half," said McAdoo. "(He played) bananas."
As two of the most experienced players on the team, head coach Roy Williams expects McAdoo and Bullock to play "bananas" more consistently, but he was quick to note that he was encouraged by their performance early.
"First half, Reggie and James Michael did carry us, no question about that," said Williams. "It was pretty in the first half guys, I don't mind telling you."
The key to this initial success was simple, according to Bullock: the team played like they practiced. UNC got back to the fundamentals on the defensive end of the court, he said, and that led to smoother transitions.
Bullock noticed that when he and his teammates resist overthinking a situation and see the court as Williams sets it up in practice, the team plays at a higher level. If they can make it a habit, the guard sees great potential in the Tar Heels.
"Once we continue to play like this," said Bullock. "We can be one of the best teams in the conference."