CHAPEL HILL – The No. 19 UNC men’s basketball team returned from the Christmas holiday break with a win against Northern Kentucky despite a sluggish middle 20 minutes of play.

“The biggest part of the game was we were not very sharp to say the least,” UNC Head Coach Roy Williams said after the game. “I probably gave them too much time at Christmas. We played Saturday, let them go, and didn’t bring them back until seven o’clock (Thursday) night.”

Carolina jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter of action.

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But the 24-10 lead slowly faded throughout the rest of the first half. UNC ended the first half shooting 44 percent compared to NKU’s 39 percent.

The game stayed flat in the first ten minutes of the second half as Carolina outscored Northern Kentucky 8-1 in the first six minutes. However, the action back up for the final quarter of play in which the Tar Heels outscored the Norse 22-20.

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That rebound by Marcus Paige was one of the nine the 6’1”, 175-pound point guard tallied Friday night, which led all Tar Heels. After the game, Coach Williams wasn’t too pleased with that stat line.

“Who was our lead rebounder without looking down at the sheet?” Coach Williams asked the media. “Marcus Paige, nine rebounds. My gosh, guys. Some other guys have got to rebound the basketball better.”

Paige said, though the long-range shooting style of the Norse lends to long rebounds, he’d like to see the big men show a little more aggression underneath.

“We’ve just got to do a better job of hitting the boards,” Paige said. “We’re too big and too athletic to allow someone like me to lead the team in rebounds.”

James Michael McAdoo led all scorers with 14 points; he also tallied six rebounds.

Paige and Leslie McDonald both tallied 11 points, including three makes each from behind the arc.

In the first nine games, players other than Paige were responsible for four Carolina three pointers. McDonald has made eight since being cleared to play by the NCAA, including the three against the Norse. McDonald led the Tar Heels in scoring through the first 20 minutes with nine.

Coach Williams says McDonald’s return still has more potential to get UNC’s shooting numbers up.

“Making shots, that makes everybody better,” Coach Williams said. “There’s not question about that. He made, I guess, three of them in the first half. Leslie does have the ability to shoot the ball, and that really helps us, and it’s, hopefully, going to help us even more down the line.”

McDonald only shot 4-11 in the game.

As a team, the three-point shooting fell off in the second half. After shooting 5-8 in the first 20, Paige hit the only three for the Tar Heels who went 1-6 in the second.

The fifteen blocked shots Carolina tallied tied the second-most in school history.

And, despite the non-conference opponent and a game between Christmas and New Years, nearly 19,000 fans saw the Carolina win inside the 21,750 seat arena.

With the win, Carolina improved to 9-3; Northern Kentucky fell to 4-8.

The Tar Heels return to the Dean Dome Tuesday to host UNC Wilmington for a 5:00 p.m. New Years Eve tipoff.

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