McDonald leads North Carolina to rout of Rutgers
NEW YORK (AP)—North Carolina coach Roy Williams hasn’t had his full team together in over a week. It didn’t show.
Leslie McDonald scored 14 points to lead a balanced North Carolina offense in a 78-55 win over Rutgers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“We haven’t had any practices since the day before the William and Mary game,” Williams said. “We were coming in (to New York) on Sunday and practicing here Sunday night, but flights were canceled. We did have a shootaround but had only 10 out of 16 players.”
North Carolina, like most schools, almost never arrives at an out-of-state game on the day of the contest. The Tar Heels (9-4) were forced to change their plans after a blizzard dumped nearly two feet of snow on the ground in New York.
It didn’t seem to matter as they began the game with a 14-2 run and never looked back.
“We got a lot of shooting in,” said Williams, whose Tar Heels hit 11 of 23 3-pointers.
Justin Watts added 10 points for the Tar Heels, who have won five of their past six games.
“Key to the game is a lot of guys came off the bench and we outscored them 38-13,” Williams said.
Jonathan Mitchell scored 20 points for the Scarlet Knights (9-3), who had their six-game winning streak end.
North Carolina starting shooting guard Dexter Strickland, who was at home in New Jersey over the holidays, wasn’t able to make it down for practice over the weekend. He ended up meeting the team in New York.
Even with their travel woes, the Tar Heels got off to a strong start. They scored 14 of the first 16 points capped by Reggie Bullock’s 3-pointer. Rutgers cut its deficit to 16-8 before North Carolina scored eight straight, including back-to-back 3-pointers by McDonald that made it a 16-point game midway through the half.
A 3-pointer by Harrison Barnes a few moments later gave the Tar Heels a 27-11 lead. North Carolina hit 11 of its first 15 shots, including five 3s.
“First five or six possessions we played frenetic basketball,” Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. “We didn’t make the simple play and that led to transition points. From there (North Carolina’s) confidence from the perimeter grew.”
Even when they did miss shots, North Carolina controlled the offensive boards. Watts followed up an errant shot with a thunderous two-handed dunk that made it 33-15. The Tar Heels led 42-22 at the half.
Rutgers scored the first five points of the second half before North Carolina answered with seven straight to put the game away.
The Tar Heels have one more nonconference game against Saint Francis, Pa., before opening up Atlantic Coast Conference play at Virginia on Jan. 8.
Tuesday night was the 13th meeting between the schools. Rutgers won the first game back in 1921 and North Carolina has won every one since.
It’s the second straight season that the Tar Heels have snapped a six-game streak for Rutgers. Rookie coach Rice and the Scarlet Knights were bidding for their first seven-game streak since 2001-02.
Even with the loss, Rutgers is off to the best start under a first-year coach since 1945-46 when the Scarlet Knights won 10 of their first 12 games under Donald S. White.
“No time to hang our heads. We got to come back in practice and get better the next few days we have to prepare for ‘Nova,” Rutgers guard James Beatty said.
Rutgers opens Big East play on Sunday at Villanova.