North Carolina 85, N.C. State 84.
It was over.
Just as quickly as the crowd became unglued with an early six-point lead in the bonus period, the revelry ceased, rapidly quieting to funereal tones.
Smatterings of expletives were shouted to referees, to players of both teams, to no one in particular.
“I don’t know what it is about us, but they really hate us.” said Paige, who finished with a career-high 35 points.
“It feels so good for them to have the game in their hands and for us to show resilience and come take it from (them).”
The win gave UNC (21-7, 11-4 ACC) its first 10-game ACC win streak since 2008-09, a milestone that also came against N.C. State (17-11, 7-8 ACC) that season.
For more than two hours, Warren and Paige engaged in a captivating battle. The pair traded baskets in the overtime period, each seeming to one-up the other with each ensuing position. By the end of overtime, Paige and Warren accounted for 19 of 27 points scored in the extra time.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen much where two guys are going back and forth at each other like that,” said coach Roy Williams, who is 27-2 against N.C. State in his career. “I mean, T.J. has such a tremendous ability. He scores on little guys, he scores on big guys, it doesn’t make any difference.”
As has become habit this season, Paige clicked into a different gear after halftime. After only scoring four points in the first 20 minutes Paige shifted into his highest gear and poured in 31 points in the final 25 minutes. He drained seven 3-pointers — the most of any UNC player since Will Graves in the 2010 NIT finals.
“When we see this, it’s not a big surprise to us,” said J.P. Tokoto, who had 16 points. “We’re very happy for him, but at the same time we know what he’s capable of, so he’s someone we can definitely lean on down the stretch.”
The Tar Heels followed Paige’s lead and turned their play around after a dismal first half. After committing 11 turnovers in the first half — including one with one second left before halftime — UNC only committed one more for the rest of the game.
After the game, Williams said he felt like he and his team were escaping with a win. Fortunately for Williams, he’s got the best escape artist on his roster — a man who can battle on the hardwood and transform a half of missed chances and poor play into a win that’s already cemented itself in rivalry lore.
“Marcus Paige isn’t going to win many fights,” Williams said. “I’d hate to see him in a fight. But, by golly, I’d love to have him in my foxhole. I want tough people, and he’s as tough of a little sucker as I’ve ever seen.”