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Monday January 24th

Marcus Paige's baffling shooting slump continues

<p>Senior guard Marcus Paige (5) drives the ball towards the basket. This was Paige’s first game back after suffering a fracture to his non-shooting hand.</p>
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Senior guard Marcus Paige (5) drives the ball towards the basket. This was Paige’s first game back after suffering a fracture to his non-shooting hand.

In the past couple of decades, Coach Roy Williams has overseen the growth of several talented players. 

From Paul Pierce and Kirk Hinrich in his days at Kansas to Tyler Hansbrough and Harrison Barnes in his time at North Carolina, the list of gifted athletes is extensive. 

Williams will promptly tell you senior guard Marcus Paige belongs on that list. But lately, the senior has trudged through a prolonged shooting slump. Since scoring 30 points against Florida State on Jan. 4, Paige is 3-for-25 from the field and 1-for-17 from beyond the arc. 

It’s something Williams has never seen from a player of Paige’s caliber. The problem is so new for Williams that he has no solution for his star’s difficulties.

“I guess they pay me a lot of money to say ‘I don’t know,’” Williams said. “But I’ve never had a player that I’ve had more confidence in in my entire life than Marcus Paige.”

In UNC's game versus Wake Forest Wednesday night, Paige missed his first seven shot attempts. His only two points came on a difficult layup late in the second half. 

During Paige’s struggles, sophomore guard Joel Berry has picked up the slack from the perimeter. The sophomore has accounted for seven of the team’s 11 made 3-point field goals in the past three games. 

Berry said Paige has helped the team in other ways — against the Demon Deacons, Paige led the team with four steals. 

“You’re not going to have a good night every night,” Berry said. “And I know the past three games he hasn’t. But Marcus is going to be Marcus. He’s going to get in the gym and just shoot more — and that’s what it takes. And I know he’ll come out of the funk that he’s in.”

No one on the team might be able to identify more with Paige’s struggles than sophomore wing Theo Pinson, who has had a rough beginning to the New Year. 

Since scoring 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting against Clemson on Dec. 30, the sophomore is a dismal 1-for-17 from the field. 

“It’s going to change at some point,” Pinson said. “Hopefully the next game when we go up to Virginia Tech. We're just going to keep working, stay in the game and keep getting a whole lot of shots up and they’ll fall.” 

None of the players or coaches believe Paige’s poor shooting will continue much longer. But if it does, Williams might have to turn to his voodoo magic.

“I’m going to go get a crystal ball, put a wig on and some incense — is that what it is? Some smoke stuff,” Williams joked.

“See if I can go chant something and figure it out.”

@BenColey15

sports@dailytarheel.com

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