GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Early this season, North Carolina coach Roy Williams conceded that his was a team that needed to find a way to create energy.
With the Tar Heels seemingly content to cling to a 10-to-13-point lead -- and little animation radiating from a less-than-capacity Greensboro Coliseum crowd -- the forward converted back-to-back 3-point plays midway through second half. That jump-started a 12-2 run that gave the Tar Heels a 23-point lead -- and everyone an intensity boost.
“I feel like it was a good turning point in the game,” said McAdoo, who finished with a season-high 17 points. “We had been getting little chippies that hadn’t been going in, and the coaches just told us to keep going to the boards, keep working. And getting those two and-ones just showed us what we could do.”
McAdoo started his third consecutive game in place of ACC Defensive Player of Year John Henson -- who was a scratch after UNC’s Friday morning shootaround. Williams put the junior through a series of drills and decided Henson still didn’t look comfortable enough using his sprained left wrist.
“It has gotten a little bit better each day and every day, but it hasn’t gotten better at the same rate as it was earlier in the week,’’ Williams said of the wrist, which Henson hurt in the ACC tournament quarterfinals last Friday. " ... If it continues, I would say it’s a little better than 50-50 that he would play Sunday [against eighth-seeded Creighton]. But if he still feels the same way, I won’t play him.”
With Henson cheering him on from the bench in a coat and tie, McAdoo said he didn’t have any nerves playing in his first NCAA tournament game.
But he had a frustrating start, missing his first four shots (all in the lane) before getting a roughly six-minute break on the bench. When he checked back in, he made two free throws and then made a steal before spiking home a crowd-gasping dunk off a Reggie Bullock miss. That gave his team a 15-9 lead, but it didn’t ignite the blowout, then, that one might have thought.
Still leading only by two points late in the first half, UNC finally pulled away using a Tyler Zeller-spurred 12-4 run to gain some much-needed breathing room (and finally a double-digit lead, 31-21).
But it wasn’t until the second half, which McAdoo started with a jumper, that the Tar Heels broke the game open.
Guard Sandro Carissimo led Vermont (which shot only 39.7 percent) with 11 points.
But McAdoo -- who also had six rebounds and four steals -- created the much-needed energy surge.
“I thought James Michael was sensational in the second half,’’ Williams said. “The first half he was 1-for-6 and had good shots. But the second half he made a bunch of those, and five offensive rebounds. … We’re happy that we’re one of the 32 that are still playing.”
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.