by Emily Fedewa, GoHeels.com
CHAPEL HILL -- Less than two full days after an emotional victory over archrival and top-five ranked Duke that marked the team's eighth win in a row, the North Carolina basketball team played its fourth game in just eight days - and it was the most dominating and complete offensive win of ACC play for the Tar Heels.
After dropping their first game to Wake Forest to open a slow start to conference play, the Tar Heels wanted revenge on the Demon Deacons, but that wasn't all they wanted.
Carolina was also motivated to add another win to its streak by the difficulty of this recent stretch of games.
"We had to complete the streak. Coach always said, it's not special to go four games in eight days unless you win all four of them," sophomore Marcus Paige said. "So that was our goal to get through this game and we shot the ball well...so that always helps but it was a great way to end this rough stretch."
Despite the obvious possibility for fatigue after the passionate and charged win over the Blue Devils just 36 hours before, the Tar Heels came out strong in their 105-72 win over Wake Forest on Saturday.
On the offensive end, Carolina found the three point touch it has struggled with for a lot of the season. The team hit 73.3 percent of its threes on 11-for-15 shooting, the second best percentage in school history when at least 10 threes were attempted in a game.
Senior Leslie McDonald made five of those three pointers while missing just one and scoring a team-high 19 points. Head coach Roy Williams said the improved shooting comes down to better shot selection and that sense of urgency.
"Everything looks so much better when the ball goes in the basket. And that's what happened (on Saturday)," Williams said. "We've played pretty good basketball here in this whole stretch, not just in these eight days. I think (Saturday), when the ball goes in the basket, everything looks better."
UNC is also showing improvement from more than just three point range. Against Wake Forest, the Tar Heels shot a season-high 82.2 percent from the free throw line.
Four Tar Heels were perfect from the line while two more missed just one each on Saturday, and the team made 21 consecutive free throws spanning a stretch from the end of the Duke game through the beginning of the Wake Forest game.
"Guys are just more confident, we're still working on (free throws) everyday in practice," Paige said. "It's a thing where they can be contagious in either way and since we've started to make some I think it's started to help us out."
And all of this offensive improvement didn't just come from one or two players - it was the product of a much more balanced effort.
"We just had a bunch of guys contributing. Obviously Leslie led us tonight but we still had five or six other guys in double figures," Paige said. "It was good to have everyone in a groove."
Although they are on a nine-game winning streak and have shown measurable improvement in many areas, the Tar Heels know they can't let up now.
McAdoo and the rest of his teammates have bigger ambitions than just winning four games in eight days.
"We've been here before with a couple of big wins but also a couple bad losses, nobody on this team wants to go back to that place," McAdoo said. "We don't want to have a bunch of what ifs at this point in the season. We all have big goals and aspirations, so I think that just helps us become hungrier."
And as the postseason gets closer, Carolina will need that hunger and improvement to continue as it looks to set itself up for tournament success.