ATLANTA (AP) — Brian Gregory believes North Carolina’s new four-guard lineup is making the Tar Heels a team to watch.
James Michael McAdoo scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to end a three-game scoring slump and North Carolina took control with a 12-0 second-half run to beat Georgia Tech 70-58 on Tuesday night.
The Tar Heels (18-8, 8-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won two straight, including a 93-81 win over Virginia on Saturday.
“They’re playing their best basketball of the season right now,” said Gregory, whose Georgia Tech team lost for the second time this season to the Tar Heels. “You can tell they’re playing with a sense of purpose.
“That team, the last third of the season and the ACC tournament, you better watch out.”
McAdoo scored in double figures in 21 of the first 22 games for North Carolina before battling a sore back and scoring in single figures in each of his last three games.
The sophomore forward was sharp against the Yellow Jackets. He had 15 points in the first half and scored the final basket in the 12-0 run that gave North Carolina a 59-41 lead with 8:47 remaining. The Tar Heels stretched the lead to 22 points at 66-44.
“I really came in confident,” McAdoo said. “Sooner or later, I knew I was going to have a good game.
“Everyone else has been playing so well. I was able to come out with my teammates. They found me, and it was a great overall game.”
Reggie Bullock, who had nine points and seven rebounds, said he could see McAdoo’s confidence soar.
“He was getting out running, making good decisions,” Bullock said. “He was comfortable, and I think it was a real confidence-boost for him.”
Leslie McDonald, who had four 3-pointers, had 15 points for the Tar Heels.
Marcus Georges-Hunt and Chris Bolden scored 12 points apiece for Georgia Tech (14-11, 4-9).
The Yellow Jackets had won four of seven games since a 79-63 loss at North Carolina on Jan. 23.
North Carolina center Joel James missed his third straight game with a concussion. James’ injury helped open the way for coach Roy Williams to move to a four-guard lineup and shortened rotation.
The quick North Carolina lineup caused matchup problems for the Yellow Jackets.
“When they played at that pace, they played it much more under control than when we played it at that pace,” Gregory said. “I’ll put that as gently as I can.”
Williams said the 6-foot-9 McAdoo’s defense on opposing centers has helped the Tar Heels keep the four guards on the floor.
“He’s had some big challenges the last three games with the guys he’s trying to guard,” Williams said of McAdoo. “He’s done a nice job.”
The Tar Heels kept their lead in double figures the final 13 minutes despite shooting only 37.9 percent from the field (25 of 66) for the game.
North Carolina committed only nine turnovers — 10 fewer than Georgia Tech.
“Nine turnovers, I’ll take that every game,” said Williams, who wore a blue plaid jacket.
“We can’t afford to shoot 38 percent and win very often.”
P.J. Hairston, who scored a career-high 29 points while making six 3-pointers in the Tar Heels’ win over Virginia Saturday, opened the game with another 3. North Carolina then missed its next five shots during Georgia Tech’s 8-0 run.
The Yellow Jackets led 19-16 following a basket by Georges-Hunt.
A three-point play by McAdoo started a string of seven unanswered points for the Tar Heels.
Georgia Tech missed each of its six free throws in the first half, matching the margin of its 36-30 deficit.
Kammeon Holsey, who had 10 points, missed the first of two free throws early in the second half to leave the Yellow Jackets 0 for 7 from the line, but he made the second attempt, bringing a loud cheer from the crowd. Overall, Georgia Tech made only 4 of 11 free throws.
“We’re just not at a point right now unfortunately to be good enough to make up for some of the glaring mistakes that we made,” Gregory said. “Turnovers and empty possessions. If you get to the foul line but miss the shot, it’s just as good as a turnover.”
Hairston, who made only 4 of 15 shots, finished with 10 points.
Among the former Georgia Tech stars in the stands for the game: coach Bobby Cremins, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, Atlanta Hawks guard Anthony Morrow and Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.