By Mark Carroll - Blog Coordinator
McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium was filled to capacity by 7 PM Tuesday night - over an hour before tip off of the most anticipated game so far this summer. The Greater NC Pro-Am had a State-Carolina ring to it as North Carolina's Harrison Barnes and Team Stackhouse squared off with N.C. State's C.J. Leslie and Team McGladrey.
Team Stackhouse's roster consisted of five Tar Heels, four of which are current players and one who is a recruit of the 2011 class. Team McGladrey boasted five current Wolfpack players, including the highly touted incoming freshman trio of Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown. Class of 2012 commitment Joseph Uchebo joined his future Raleigh teammates in the action.
Ironically, former Texas star P.J. Tucker scored the first basket of the game with a lay-up in the opening minute. Brown quickly responded with a put-back dunk on the other end. It was immediately clear that neither team was going to start out hesitant.
As the first quarter progressed, fans for each team erupted as highlight plays occurred on both ends. Leslie made a leaping effort to reject Barnes on a drive, previewing a match-up that will gain national attention in the winter. Harrow showed off his range with an early three pointer, as Team McGladrey got off to a quick start.
Team Stackhouse was not to be put away early, however. Forward John Henson made a statement right away, following a Barnes miss with a thundering two-hand slam. Junior guard Justin Watts contributed with a baseline jumper, and Bullock added scoring of his own just minutes later, using his size advantage on Brown to muscle his way to the basket for two points. Barnes increased the lead to five with a tomahawk slam that brought the crowd to its feet, but Team McGladrey's C.J. Williams ended the run with a trey ball from the top of the key. At the end of the quarter, Team Stackhouse held the advantage, 18-16.
The first four points of the second quarter came from Team McGladrey, as star forward Tracy Smith powered his way to two points in the post and Leslie followed just seconds later with a steal and a strong two-handed jam. Their lead was short-lived, as Team Stackhouse got perimeter baskets from Barnes, Bullock and E.J. Williams. Bullock missed a three point attempt at the buzzer, but Team Stackhouse still went into halftime with a 41-32 lead.
Fans remained on the edge of their seats in the second half as both teams continued to fight for a win. At the beginning in the half, Team McGladrey got excellent post play from Smith and Leslie. Brown added a long-range bucket for three of his 15 points to compliment the play from down low and trim the margin. With 1:45 remaining in the third quarter, Leslie threw down a reverse slam for two of his 21 points to cut the lead to three.
Just as it appeared that Team McGladrey held all the momentum, Team Stackhouse's P.J. Hairston killed the run by converting an old-fashioned three point play. Barnes and Bullock added a couple buckets of their own, and took a 61-51 advantage into the final period.
Team Stackhouse tried to pull away early in the fourth quarter, as Bullock and Barnes both knocked down three pointers immediately. Brown answered with two deep threes for Team McGladrey, and an alley-oop from Harrow to Smith cut the deficit to 75-67 with two minutes remaining. The eight point difference was too much to overcome, as Team Stackhouse hit their free throws down the stretch and pulled off their third win of the season, 82-72.
While the game was not a true match-up between the two tobacco road rivals, Watts claimed that it was an important contest.
"It's a good chance to play with my teammates and get that chemistry we're going to need for this year," Watts said after the game. "It's also fun and it allows people to come out that can't afford to come to the games to watch us and get a sight at what we look like."
Watts also gave a lot of credit to Barnes (25 points) and Bullock (30 points), as he looks forward to playing with the two in the upcoming season.
"Those guys are great to play with. They're great teammates. Playing with people like that makes them better and makes you better."
If Tuesday night's game was any indication, Tar Heel fans can look forward to their team as a whole getting better.