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J.P. Tokoto bounces back in No. 14 North Carolina’s overtime victory

Dec 21, 2013, 7:52 PM EDT

tokoto AP

North Carolina sophomore wing J.P. Tokoto has shown signs of improvement this season, raising both his scoring (9.6 ppg entering Saturday) and rebounding (4.8 rpg) averages from a season ago. Part of that has come with an increased number of opportunities, as Reggie Bullock’s now a Los Angeles Clipper and P.J. Hairston’s no longer a member of the program.

But there’s also Tokoto’s improved aggressiveness to be taken into consideration, and after struggling in North Carolina’s home loss to Texas on Wednesday night he bounced back against Davidson. Tokoto posted his second double-double of the season with 22 points (8-for-14 FG), 11 rebounds, four blocks and four steals, and the Tar Heels needed every one of those points and rebounds in their 97-85 overtime win over the visiting Wildcats.

With Davidson blitzing leading scorer Marcus Paige in nearly every ball-screen situation and refusing to allow him to turn the corner, North Carolina needed its “supporting cast” to step up with Paige shooting 4-for-12 from the field (he scored eight of his 17 points from the foul line). Up stepped Tokoto, junior forward James Michael McAdoo (19 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and freshman center Kennedy Meeks, who finished the game with 13 points to go along with four rebounds.

Davidson gave North Carolina all they wanted and then some, with Brian Sullivan leading four double-figure scorers with a career-high 33 points. And if not for the contributions of a Tokoto or McAdoo, the Wildcats very well could have run away with the game. With Hairston gone and Leslie McDonald still working towards the level of productivity that will be expected of him as a perimeter shooter, North Carolina needs another perimeter scorer to make his presence known.

Does that option have to be a lights-out shooter? Not exactly, as Paige and McDonald are both capable of knocking down those shots. Tokoto’s improved his shot from last season but he’s most dangerous attacking the basket off the dribble. If Tokoto can continue to progress towards being a consistent scoring option for North Carolina, it will help a team that still perplexes many move towards truly defining themselves.

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