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Off the cuff: Playing against a top 20 team and handling them without your top scorer? Terrific. Of course the Heels did it at home. Still, this was a good win that the NCAA selection committee will consider.

The Tar Heels got ahead and then came back after a UNLV run. Both good signs.

There are no more non-conference games and very few gimmes the rest of the way. This team could go either way but the win over UNLV gives Tar Heel fans hope.


Tar Heels 79, UNLV 73
UNC defense leads to signature victory

A more aggressive North Carolina team used tenacious defense to offset the loss of Reggie Bullock to pick up its best win of the season, 79-73 over No. 20 UNLV. (12/29)

Bullock didn’t play because of a concussion suffered at practice on Thursday but the Tar Heels still rushed out to an early 8-2 lead. A 7-0 run, highlighted by a Leslie McDonald three, put the Heels in control at 19-6.

Carolina, behind eight points from freshman Brice Johnson, worked the lead to 15 in the first half before settling for a nine-point margin, 39-30, at the half.

“We played the best defense we have all year long in the first half,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.

But in the first six minutes of the second half, the Runnin’ Rebels got back in it, in fact took the lead 49-48 after four three-point plays, including a pair of three-point shots by Katin Reinhardt.

James Michael McAdoo answered with six straight points, including an old-fashioned three-point play, to put the Heels up 54-49.

Carolina would never trail again although the biggest margin after that was only seven.  “In the second half, I was proud of our toughness – that’s something you haven’t heard me say this year,” Williams said.

UNLV went five minutes between baskets but still trailed only 72-68 following another Reinhardt three with 2:12 left.

Dexter Strickland hit a big shot in the lane with the shot clock running down to give the Tar Heels a 74-68 edge with 90 seconds left.

A controversial foul by Marcus Paige led to a couple of free throws by Reinhardt to pull the Rebels to within three at 76-73 with 31 seconds left.

But P.J. Hairston hit a couple of three throws and Strickland hit one to wrap it up.

The Tar Heels got to the free throw line a lot hitting 20 but also missing 13.

Strickland led the Tar Heels with 16 points but the player of the game may have been Hairston, who was starting in place of Bullock. Hairston scored 15 points and came away with four steals. McAdoo scored 13 points and had nine rebounds while Paige and Johnson each finished with 12.

It was the last non-conference game for the Tar Heels, now 10-3. Carolina starts conference play at Virginia Jan. 6. UNLV falls to 11-2.


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