by Megan Mortekker, GoHeels.com
CHAPEL HILL - UNC has been working all season to piece together a full 40 minutes of Carolina basketball. Perhaps the biggest breakthrough came Saturday, facing NC State, as the Tar Heels were inspired by a sense of urgency.
Junior guard Reggie Bullock led the charge with 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
Head coach Roy Williams was particularly pleased with the Kinston native's offensive rebounding off of missed free throws. It was a demonstration, he said, of the intensity he's been looking for out of his team on the court.
"The sense of urgency, the toughness and using our brains a little more," said Williams. "All three were really big for us."
Though Bullock topped the Tar Heel leaderboard in points and rebounds, the 76-65 win over the Wolfpack was not a one-man show. Freshman point guard Marcus Paige appeared more settled in his role than when the Tar Heels' first encountered NC State this season.
As his confidence grows, the Marion, Iowa, native is becoming more fluid with his shot. Williams and teammates have seen Paige's ability to shoot in practice, so when it comes to game time, Bullock tries to be the voice in Paige's head.
"Every time he passes it to me, he tells me 'Don't hesitate, just shoot'," said Bullock. "So when he was on transition and nobody picked him up, I was like, 'Don't ever hesitate if you're going to tell me never hesitate on a shot.'"
With this advice in mind, Paige turned things around in the second half. Going into halftime the point guard had yet to score, but he finished the game as the Tar Heels' second leading scorer alongside sophomore James Michael McAdoo.
"My little freshman is a tough nut," said Williams. "He's getting better and better as we go along."
Paige and Bullock, with the help of sophomore guard P.J. Hairston, went into overdrive in the second half, increasing their accuracy from beyond the arc by more than 20 percentage points.
"We know that if we want to be a good team and not lose ball games we have to play even better in the second half," said McAdoo. "That's the biggest thing we've tried to focus on, and today we were successful with that."
Bullock acknowledges that it all comes down to the players realizing the talent within them. Once his team recognizes that, the sky is the limit.
"Every time we go out and put that North Carolina jersey on, teams are going to try to give us their best shot," said Bullock. "We have to play with more effort and believe that we're good."