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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's basketball top Norse

At the beginning of the second half of North Carolina’s 75-60 victory against Northern Kentucky, starting point guard Marcus Paige took the floor with four other players who were anything but starters.

Coach Roy Williams, who was dissatisfied with his team’s effort to say the least, started Paige with the likes of Jackson Simmons, Desmond Hubert, Luke Davis and Isaiah Hicks.

“He let us know at halftime that he was going to play the guys that showed the most effort and intensity,” Paige said. “That lit a fire under some of the other guys.”

But that wasn’t the only unorthodox plan Williams wanted to pursue.

“I was ticked off, and I wanted to try something different,” Williams said. “What I wanted to do was stay out at halftime and run sprints the entire freaking half, and (my assistants) thought it was not the right thing to do.”

Forward Brice Johnson, who has recently earned a starting role, said that when Williams introduced the idea in the locker room he was already mentally preparing to spend halftime working on his cardio. He knew Williams was serious.

But the less extreme halftime coaching move paid off for the Tar Heels.

As the second half began, the Tar Heels came up with stops on each of Northern Kentucky’s first six possessions and began building on their 35-30 halftime lead.

“That’s something we didn’t do, the starting five, the entire game,” forward James Michael McAdoo said. “That’s something that should motivate us.”

McAdoo said the fire UNC should have been showing all game needs to start with leaders such as himself and Paige, who led the team with nine rebounds against an undersized Norse team.

Paige said that team-high marker wasn’t necessarily good, though.

“I mean, hey, I was happy. I thought I was going to get my first double-double,” Paige said. “At the same time we’ve got to do a better job of hitting the boards.”

The Tar Heel big men may not have been hitting the boards hard, but they were hitting the ball hard. With 15 blocks UNC used its height advantage to accumulate the second most rejections in school history against a Norse team that’s tallest starter is 6-foot-6.

Junior P.J. Hairston was not on the bench with the team Friday night and when asked about Hairston’s absence Williams responded by saying that Hairston “is not on our team.”

Though this time Williams took it easy on the Tar Heels, who eventually pulled through to overpower the outmatched Norse, he said next time he doesn’t plan on taking it easy on his team at halftime if it isn’t putting in enough effort.

“I will never ask (my assistants) again,” Williams said. “Because I want to (make them run sprints at halftime) one of these days.”

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