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Off the cuff: I'm probably the only sports commentator who believes it's just natural to play to your opponent's skills. Most "inferior" teams play some of their best ball against the Tar Heels and the Tar Heels play some of their best ball against the Kentuckys and Michigan States of the world.

But, yes, certainly, the Tar Heels need to play their own game and take advantage of their superior talent against teams like Northern Kentucky. I guess as long as they can win these games, which they didn't do against Belmont and UAB, it's ok.

Eventually it will catch up to them but with the ACC schedule starting, if any player is foolish enough not to think that any ACC team can win on a given night, then that player belongs in another league.

While the common wisdom is that the Tar Heels started out poorly against Northern Kentucky because they weren't playing with intensity, people have already forgotten that the Tar Heels raced out to a 10-point lead before the first TV timeout.

Carolina even had a secure 10-point edge with six minutes left in the first half. Northern Kentucky went on a modest run that cut it to five at the half.

The subs in the second half did play with more intensity but that's the way it always is.

Yes, there should be concern but let's not go overboard.

Tar Heels 75, Northern Kentucky 60
The other UNC team limps to win

North Carolina fans are getting used to not knowing which UNC team will show up. The other Tar Heel team - not the one that beat Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky - showed up after Christmas break to play 4-7 Northern Kentucky and managed to limp to a 75-60 victory. (12/27)

The Tar Heels led by just five 35-30 at the half despite working the lead up to 14 early at 22-8.

As a result, UNC coach Roy Williams benched the starting five, except for Marcus Paige, to start the second half. The second five did show more enthusiasm and intensity. A fast-moving Paige to Desmond Hubert to Isiah Hicks dunk play got the loudest ovation of the night and put the Heels up by 10 at 40-30 early in the second half.

Williams said the second team's desire gave the Heels a lift. He said they competed harder and cared more.

Williams said he was so disappointed in the first half that he wanted the team to just run sprints at the half.

The starters came back in after the first TV timeout and, while Northern Kentucky were able to cut it to seven at 44-37 with 13 minutes left, the Heels went on an 11-3 run to put the home team in command at 55-40.

The lead fluctuated between 12 and 16 points the rest of the way.

"We were not sharp to say the least," said Williams, who speculated that he gave the team too much time off over Christmas.

Northern Kentucky's tallest player was just 6-foot-6 but the Tar Heels didn't take advantage of the height advantage on the offensive end as the visitors outscored the Heels in the paint 28-26. Carolina did win the rebounding war 42-32.

James Michael McAdoo led the Heels with 14 points while Paige finished with 11 and Leslie McDonald finished with 11, including three three pointers in the first half.

The Tar Heels, now 9-3, hosts UNC-Wilmington on New Year's Eve.


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