CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Leslie McDonald scored a career-high 24 points in his first career start to help No. 14 North Carolina beat UAB 102-84 on Saturday night.
James Michael McAdoo added 15 points and 12 rebounds as part of a balanced offensive showing for the Tar Heels (6-2).
North Carolina was coming off an ugly loss at No. 1 Indiana, but the Tar Heels regrouped with a win despite playing without starting freshman point guard Marcus Paige due to a shoulder injury.
The Tar Heels shot 53 percent and had six players reach double figures, though they had trouble putting away the program led by former UNC assistant coach Jerod Haase.
Jordan Swing had 21 points to lead the Blazers (4-4), who trailed most of the day but stayed within reach of the Tar Heels until the final 6 minutes.
The Tar Heels were coming off an 83-59 loss to the Hoosiers, which was the most lopsided nonconference loss for North Carolina since Roy Williams took over in 2003.
North Carolina shot just 28 percent after halftime in that one in a performance that did nothing to ease Williams’ worries about his team’s toughness – or lack thereof – following its loss to Butler in the Maui Invitational.
It didn’t help that Paige was unavailable for this one after straining his left shoulder in practice Friday, leaving primary ball-handling duties to senior Dexter Strickland.
Strickland responded with a career-high nine assists, while McDonald turned in another strong performance in his return from a serious knee injury that cost him last season.
McDonald had set a career high with 21 points in the win against Mississippi State in Maui, then surpassed that by going 7 for 11 from the field and knocking down five 3-pointers.
Reggie Bullock added 17 points and P.J. Hairston had 16 for UNC, though Williams spent much of the day looking frustrated by his team’s performance.
After the Tar Heels gave up a transition 3 midway through the second half, Williams ripped off his gray suit jacket as his team came to the bench for a timeout then slammed a clipboard down on the floor so hard that a marker flew straight up in the air above the huddle.
Later, when his Tar Heels tossed a ball away in transition, Williams picked up the ball and pretended he was ready to punt it into the stands.
Still, UNC scored 67 points after halftime to reach 100 points for the second time this season.
The game marked a homecoming for Haase, who had spent the past nine seasons as an assistant to Williams in Chapel Hill. It also marked a return for UAB assistant coach Bobby Frasor, who was a senior guard on the Tar Heels’ 2009 NCAA championship squad. UNC fans greeted both Haase and Frasor with loud cheers during pregame introductions.
Haase’s team responded by staying within reach of the Tar Heels most of the day until McDonald, Bullock and Hairston hit a flurry of 3s that helped UNC pull away in the final minutes.
Credit: The Associated Press.