Paige clutch for UNC in 76-65 win against NC State
The traditional role of a point guard is to play unselfishly — to look forward for open teammates, see the floor and direct his teammates.
But once in a while, he also has to know when it’s necessary to be selfish, when it’s time to hold on to the ball rather than dish it off.
For freshman point guard Marcus Paige, that time came with about seven minutes left in North Carolina’s 76-65 win against N.C. State (19-8, 8-6 ACC) Saturday afternoon in front of a capacity crowd.
Sophomore James Michael McAdoo stole the ball from Wolfpack big man T.J. Warren down low. He fired off a pass to Leslie McDonald, who swiveled and sent an outlet pass to a breaking Paige on the wing.
Paige caught the ball just in front of the 3-point arc, dribbled and, for a moment, looked as if he would pass the ball off to one of his teammates cutting through the lane.
But instead of giving the ball up for another assist, he pulled up and drained a 3-pointer to give North Carolina (19-8, 9-5 ACC) a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.
“When (Paige) was in transition and nobody ever picked him up, I was like, ‘Don’t ever hesitate if you’re going to tell me to not hesitate with my shot,’” said Reggie Bullock, who finished with a game-high 22 points and career high-tying 13 rebounds.
“So he just pulled up and knocked it down, and his confidence just started building from there”
Two minutes later, Paige stole the ball from N.C. State point guard Lorenzo Brown and drove the lane past N.C. State’s leading scorer, Scott Wood, to pick up the basket and the foul.
After his shot rattled in, Paige turned and faced the mass of students in the risers, and let out a guttural scream, bringing the crowd in the Dean E. Smith Center to its feet, rallying around the freshman.
Paige’s basket and subsequent free throw stretched UNC’s lead to eight and squashed any chance at an N.C. State rally.
“I think you have to be able to make big shots in times like that, and if the defense is going to leave you open, then they’re challenging you to make a shot like that,” Paige said. “To step up and knock it down for my teammates was really big for me.”
“We just had a stretch there from the eight-minute mark in the second half to the four-minute mark where we had some empty possessions,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
“They, in turn, took advantage of that and knocked down a couple of key threes. That little stretch right there, I thought, was the difference in the game.”
During that four-minute stretch, Paige scored 10 points to add to his 14-point total.
But Paige’s contributions to the win can be quantified in more than just his total points scored. He also dished out eight assists while not committing any turnovers.
A month earlier in PNC Arena, Paige made only four assists and turned the ball over three times.
“I’m particularly happy since he played so poorly over in Raleigh,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
“He’s a tough little nut, and I think he’s going to be a big-time player for us.”
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