Men on Fire

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- It's one thing to score a career high 24 points, snag five rebounds and make winning plays. It is very much another to pick up a team, hoist it on one's shoulders and carry them for an entire half of basketball and in the process, outscore an ACC opponent.

For a Carolina Basketball team that has teetered all season, a leader is needed. That type player is wanted. And that is the type of player Reggie Bullock is becoming. Leadership role off the court, check. On the court, that check mark is growing by the game.

"He's our leader emotionally in the locker room," freshman point guard Marcus Paige said of Bullock following North Carolina's 62-52 win over the Maryland Terrapins, "To see him go out there and make a lot of shots and be aggressive from the get go; it's something we need him to do more of and it was great to see him do it today."

Since losing to Miami and falling to 0-2 in the conference, Bullock has taken control in a way desperately needed by the talented, but young and untested, team. Outscoring Maryland by himself (21-20) in the first half set the Heels on course for the win and the strong start had the Smith Center crowd in rival mode - loud and raucous. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon didn't let the effect go unnoticed.

"I thought Carolina was great," Turgeon said, "We let Bullock get going early, acted like we didn't even know he was out there a couple of times. And then McAdoo too. We let them get going, their two best players. Everyone else fed off of it. It was a hungry team and a hungry crowd. It was a team that needed a win and played like it."

Turgeon's comments summed up the day perfectly. Bullock started the roll while James Michael McAdoo followed the junior's lead and against a bigger physical Terp squad, Carolina's lean frontcourt led by McAdoo brought much needed balance to the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Bullock and McAdoo aren't the oldest players on this team, but their play has made the difference in a team desperately needing someone to step up and take ownership and control.

"We have young guys but me and Mac played a lot of minutes for Coach Williams last year so we know we know how he wants things to be run," Bullock said of the emergence. "So we tell the younger guys that it's up to them to believe us and believe in the talent they have and go out there and do the things they can do."

"I think whatever we can do together to help our team win we need to be doing," McAdoo responded. "God blessed us both with great games and I think we could have done even better. We both missed shots and both missed some assignments. But it definitely helps as we are leaders of this team. When we go out and perform well, everyone else falls in."

With everyone else falling in line, Carolina's strong first half performance put the game out of reach despite the Heels shooting just 23.5 percent in the second half, the worst since the second half against Kansas last season. Bullock managed just one three pointer in the second half and McAdoo hit just three of nine shots after the break.

A win but plenty to improve upon. But more importantly, a win with leaders stepping up and continuing to pull this team forward.

"Reggie probably had his best game in a Carolina jersey, or at least best half," McAdoo said, "He just played great and none of it was selfish. It was all in our system and that's Carolina Basketball.

"But in order for this team to be successful, we just don't have to score, but we have to be leaders on and off the court."

Leadership. Everyone talks about it. All good teams want it. All great teams have it. Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo are doing their part to at least attempt to put Carolina in that discussion.

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