Marcus Paige didn’t need coach Roy Williams to tell him that he was being too soft in the first half, that he was coasting, that he was — in his own words — a “non-factor.”
As Paige entered halftime of No. 18 North Carolina’s 82-77 win against No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday, he was 0-for-5 from the field and had just two points to his name. The Wildcats had locked in on him defensively — as most teams have done in recent games — and succeeded in removing UNC’s (7-2) lone 3-point threat from the game entirely.
But Kentucky couldn’t keep it up. The second half revealed a new, reenergized Marcus Paige.
“For this team to be successful, I got to be aggressive, whether that’s scoring or creating opportunities for other people or at least being active defensively,” Paige said. “So I just had to scratch that first half and had to come out with a new mindset.”
In the second half, the sophomore guard racked up three steals in the first seven minutes — each resulting in UNC points. He shot 6-for-8 and made 8-of-8 free throws, scoring 21 second-half points. And with UNC up by just three points with fewer than two minutes remaining, Paige dropped in a rainbow of a floater, then alley-ooped to Brice Johnson on the very next possession in a backbreaking, game-sealing, arena-rattling display.