Leslie McDonald


Second-half defensive adjustments, Marcus Paige lead North Carolina past No. 5 Duke

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Through one half of basketball North Carolina trailed No. 5 Duke 37-30, with the Blue Devils shooting 50% from the field and scoring 26 points in the paint. Between those defensive issues and the fact that leading scorer Marcus Paige failed to score a single point, it was clear what needed to occur in order for Roy Williams’ team to have any shot at knocking off Duke.

And sure enough North Carolina got the job done on both fronts, with their switching between man-to-man and two different zone defenses (1-3-1 and 3-2) neutralizing the Duke offense for much of the second half. That adjustment combined with Paige scoring all 13 of his points in the second half resulted in a 74-66 North Carolina victory, their fourth over a team ranked in the Top 10 (at the time of the game) this season.

After starting ACC play 1-4 the Tar Heels have now won eight straight games, and on this night their work on the defensive end was crucial. Duke went more than eight minutes between made field goals in the second half, and their 35.5% shooting in the second half featured too many jump shots and not enough opportunities in the paint.

Duke’s going to take a lot of jumpers, especially from beyond the arc as they score 35% of their points from three. But with the shots missing their mark Duke needed to get the ball inside more often, and North Carolina was able to prevent this from happening for much of the second half.

As for the offensive effort, Paige was key in the second half but he wasn’t alone in carrying the load offensively for North Carolina. Leslie McDonald, who after reaching double figures in five straight games had struggled in North Carolina’s last four contests, got off to a hot start and finished the game with 21 points. McDonald made nine of his 12 shots from the field, including all eight of his two-point attempts, snapping out of a slump in which he shot 8-for-31 in the four games prior to Thursday night.

It’s been well established that North Carolina isn’t going to be a team that racks up the points like prior Roy Williams-coached teams, with their having just one consistent perimeter scoring threat (Paige) and a host of other contributors looking to become more consistent options. But they’ve been good defensively during their current win streak, and with a move to their zone defense North Carolina was able to change the momentum of Thursday’s game and win their eighth straight.

Leslie McDonald has been cleared, while reports say P.J. Hairston unlikely to play this season

Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston

On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA announced that North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald had been cleared, effective immediately. He missed nine games and will have to pay $1,783 to the charity of his choice for receiving impressible benefits.

Sources informed Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports McDonald was expected to be cleared, but the source was also said that P.J. Hairston is unlikely to play a game this season for the Tar Heels, according to the source.

In the statement the NCAA released on Wednesday, the last line read, “At this time, McDonald’s reinstatement request is the only one the NCAA has received from North Carolina.” That doesn’t offer much optimism for Hairston, who led the Tar Heels in scoring last season.

Hairston had a well-documented summer. He was pulled over twice by the police, both times he was driving vehicles rented by Fats Thomas, a convicted felon, who last month reached a plea deal for a previous arrest.

In July, Hairston was pulled over by authorities and cited with reckless driving. It was shortly thereafter that he was suspended indefinitely from the team.

McDonald averaged 7.2 points per game last season for the Tar Heels. Hairston, who elected to return to Chapel Hill for his junior season, could declare for the NBA draft a source told Yahoo Sports.

Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Louisville has first test of the season against North Carolina

Rick Pitino, Russ Smith
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 24 North Carolina, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN) 

North Carolina isn’t the team that many projected in the preseason thanks to the absence of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, but the Tar Heels still have enough firepower to challenge Louisville in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tipoff at Mohegan Sun. Louisville defeated Fairfield 71-57, while North Carolina earned a solid win over Richmond, 82-72, the the semifinal games yesterday.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Georgetown, 2:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

Georgetown is feeling the ill effects of losing Otto Porter to the NBA and has struggled in the early going with losses to Oregon and Northeastern — the latter loss very disconcerting as the Hoyas were outscored 38-20 in the second half en route to a 63-56 loss. Things don’t get easier as they have to now cope with VCU’s havoc defense. Look for Georgetown to feature Josh Smith on the offensive end as he will have a distinct size advantage against VCU.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE DAY: North Dakota vs. North Dakota State, 6:00 p.m.

If you like scoring and three-pointers, keep an eye on this game between these in-state rivals. North Dakota State has high aspirations this season as they return Taylor Braun, among others, but North Dakota is a solid team in their own right as they showed against Wisconsin last Tuesday. The Bagders are good this season, and North Dakota hung with them for much of the game, eventually succumbing 103-85.


1) Will UMass continue their hot start and knock off another BCS opponent in Clemson? On the young season, UMass has already defeated Boston College, LSU, Youngstown State, Nebraska, and — most impressively — New Mexico. A win against the Tigers, and don’t be surprised to see the Minutemen in the Top 25 come Monday.

2) Another Massachusetts school, Harvard has their first true test of the season as they travel to Colorado. It’s been hard to gauge just how good the Crimson are, but we should learn much more about them against Colorado. The match-up between Harvard’s guards Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders vs. Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker will be a good battle.

3) Providence has impressed thus far, compiling a 5-0 record with solid wins over Boston College and Vanderbilt. Against Vanderbilt, the Friars ended the game on a 27-4 run to win 67-60. They have another good test today against La Salle. Seniors Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts have been tremendous, and the Friars are looking like a team that has the potential to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

4) Maryland has gotten off to a slow start with losses to Connecticut and Oregon State, and their game against Northern Iowa at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas figures to be a tough one. Nick Faust has to be better in order for the Terps to get on track — through four games he is shooting just 36% on two-pointers and 22% on three-pointers.

5) You should be paying close attention to Belmont this season; the Bruins are for real and very good. Fresh off of their win against North Carolina last weekend, they dismantled rival Lipscomb 94-64, and then had a solid victory against Holy Cross last night. Through six games, they have eclipsed the 80 point mark five times, and have one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball. Belmont doesn’t figure to be challenged much by Hofstra today.


  • No. 6 Duke vs. Vermont, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 14 Michigan vs. Charlotte, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • No. 17 Oregon vs. San Francisco, 8:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
  • No. 19 New Mexico vs. Davidson, currently airing on ESPNU
  • No. 22 UCLA vs. Chattanooga, 10:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)


  • UAB vs. Temple, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Florida State vs. Northeastern, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Richmond vs. Fairfield, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

Without P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, North Carolina unimpressive in win over Holy Cross

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Kansas v North Carolina

North Carolina had no problem disposing of Oakland in their season-opening game against Oakland, beating the Golden Grizzlies 84-61 without the services of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald.

Against Holy Cross, however, that was hardly the case as North Carolina had to fight their way to a 62-54 victory.

The Crusaders, who finished 12-18 a season ago and was picked to finish seventh in the ten team Patriot League for 2013-14, challenged the Tar Heels and exploited their weaknesses without P.J. Hariston and Leslie McDonald.

Initially, it looked like North Carolina would run away with this one. They sprinted out to an 11-1 lead out of the gate and looked like they would coast to another victory, but they went through the motions for the latter part of the first half. Two primary areas of concern: shot selection and rebounding.

In their first two games of the year, Holy Cross gave up 82 points to Harvard and 118 points to Sacred Heart in two overtimes. The Crusaders have little depth on the inside with senior and preseason First Team All-Patriot League selection Dave Dudzinski the only proven forward, yet the Tar Heels inability to score inside with James Michael McAdoo and Joel James is of concern. Settling for outside jump shots against a poor Holy Cross defensive team is unacceptable.

Secondly, from a rebounding perspective, to get outrebounded in the first half and for the game (41-39) does not bode well. McAdoo has to be better — it’s that simple.

Of course, North Carolina not having their most potent scorer in P.J. Hairston hurts, and is a primary reason for the offensive struggles. Fortunately, Marcus Paige was there to pick up the slack and lead the Tar Heels to victory as he poured in 23 points, to go along with five rebounds and three assists.

The bright spot in the frontcourt tonight was sophomore Brice Johnson, who has scored in double figures in both of North Carolina’s games. Tonight, Johnson came off the bench to score 12 points.

It is clear that for the long-term for North Carolina to have success, Hairston and McDonald need to be on the floor. When will they return, though? That’s a question that has yet to be answered.

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 12 North Carolina Tar Heels

Roy Williams

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 25-11, 12-6 ACC (3rd); Lost to Kansas in the Round of 32

Head Coach: Roy Williams (11th season at UNC: 282-79 overall, 117-45 ACC)

Key Losses: Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland

Newcomers: Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks

Projected Lineup

G: Marcus Paige, So.
G: Leslie McDonald, Sr.
F: P.J. Hairston, Jr.
F: James Michael McAdoo, Jr.
C: Brice Johnson, So.
Bench: Nate Britt, Fr.; J.P. Tokoto, So.; Isaiah Hicks, Fr.; Kennedy Meeks, Fr.; Joel James, So.; Desmond Hubert, Jr.

They’ll be good because …: The Tar Heels certainly don’t lack the talent. Of the 11 players that figure to have a shot at seeing time in the North Carolina rotation, 10 were four-star recruits coming out of high school. Three — P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo and Isaiah Hicks — were five-star recruits. There aren’t many programs in the country that can boast that kind of talent, and what’s more is that the Heels have a nice blend of veterans — senior Leslie McDonald, juniors Hairston and McAdoo — and promising newcomers.

One of the issues last season was that freshman Marcus Paige was the only point guard on the roster, and he wasn’t a natural fit for the kind of system that Roy Williams likes to play. Not only does he now have another year under his belt, but he’ll be joined in the back court by Nate Britt, a talented freshman with the quicks to really push the ball up and down the floor.

Oh, and how could I forget: Hairston didn’t actually get booted off the team after a summer spent running afoul of the law. He only got suspended, which was huge news for a team that doesn’t have a ton of perimeter depth.

AP photo

But they might disappoint because …: They have so many question marks up front. Last season, North Carolina made their run late in the season when they switched to a smaller lineup, using McAdoo as their center and playing Reggie Bullock and Hairston, bigger wings that can score on the perimeter, at the forwards spots. It made UNC a difficult team to defend. But with Bullock off to the NBA and a front line that goes six-deep, the Heels will likely revert to using a more traditional lineup.

But what do we really know about those big men? McAdoo has all the talent and potential in the world, but he’s yet to really define himself as a player. He’s not a back-to-the-basket scorer but he’s not a face-up four man. Is he simply an athlete that can do some impressive things in transition? Brice Johnson reportedly put on about 20 pounds this offseason, but he’s still only about 207 pounds. Kennedy Meeks and Joel James have the ability to be the low-post threat that makes North Carolina so dangerous, but can they run the floor? Are they in good enough shape to really be effective? Is Isaiah Hicks ready to contribute as a freshman, or is he just an athlete as well? Would UNC fans really feel comfortable with Desmond Hubert as their starting center?

Outlook: Last year, North Carolina was able to turn their season around by going small and playing even faster than they already do. But that wasn’t a long-term answer to what ails them. It was a quick fix, a band-aid that covered up a bigger problem. When Roy Williams’ teams are doing what his system is designed to do, the two most important pieces he has are: a) a point guard that can distribute the ball and push it up the floor, either via the dribble or via the pass; and b) a big man that can beat people down the floor in transition and has to be double-teamed when he catches the ball on the block. Think about it: Ty Lawson, Ray Felton and Kendall Marshall. Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough and Tyler Zeller.

Do the Heels have that this year? James and Kennedy can score in the post, but they might struggle to beat the UNC beat writers down the floor. Johnson, Hicks and McAdoo can get out and run, but do any of them scare you on the block? And what about the point guard spot? Paige wasn’t a great fit last year, and while having Britt will help, he’s still a freshman. There are a lot of good basketball players on this team, and they’re led by a head coach that’s won two national titles since 2005, but I’m having trouble seeing how all these pieces come together.

North Carolina suspends Leslie McDonald for three games

Leslie McDonald
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North Carolina has suspended guard Leslie McDonald for three games for an undisclosed reason, the school announced in a statement Wednesday.

According to UNC coach Roy Williams, McDonald “did not do what we expect of our student-athletes,” in dealing with his responsibilities as a student-athlete.

The announcement comes hours before the Tar Heels were set to take on Georgia Tech Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET.

McDonald had missed North Carolina’s last three games with a knee injury, games in which the Tar Heels have gone 2-1. According to reports, he was medically cleared to return to game action this week, but the suspension will now keep him sidelined until Feb. 2 vs. Virginia Tech.

On the season, he is averaging 8.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. His best game of the season came in a Dec. 1 win over UAB when he scored 24 points and dished out five assists.

McDonald did not suit up for the Tar Heels last season while dealing with a knee injury.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_