If you ever wondered why analysts predicted UNC at number 1, they showed you tonight in an impressive win against BIG 10 challenger, Maryland Terps. Oh yea, and Marcus Paige is officially back.
Undefeated No. 2 Maryland traveled to the Dean Dome to meet an anxious #9 UNC. UNC is coming off a weeks rest with the anticipated return of point guard, Marcus Paige. Paige missed the first 6 games of the season due to a broken left hand, but like fans, Paige was anxious to return to the court. Carolina struggled with intensity and being physical this season, but tonight it seems the Maryland Terps finally brought the best out of UNC.
“That had a feel of an old ACC game, that had a feel of a ACC Tournament game, it had a feel of a NCAA Tournament game, and it was just fortunate for us that it was in our building,” Coach Williams said following the game
Berry III led the Heels in the absence of Paige, and he did a damn good job, but whether it was the excitement of his return or finally playing an old foe, Carolina turned up their energy tonight and gave this crowd an old ACC feel. Carolina has struggled with keeping up their energy during a full game and at times seemed tired out by mid-game, but Coach Roy Williams seemed to find a solution in properly resting his players and that’s with a heavy rotation change. Marcus Paige was quoted as saying he felt more than ready to return, and Coach wasn’t afraid to use him, Paige played a healthy 34 minutes in his return with 20pts, 4/5 from behind the arc, 5 assists and 2 steals, all with no turnovers; a solid night for a needed return.
“It was a lot of fun having number 5 back out there, there’s no question about that. One thing I’m proud of this team is all their minutes change with Paige back out there and no one cared about that at all.” Said Coach Williams
With Paige back on the floor, you noticed Carolina play different. The leadership provided by Paige gave Carolina a confidence that they haven’t exhibited against other opponents. Paige opened the floor and gladly put himself in the paint if it meant forcing Maryland turnovers. Paige had only a few assists, but there one which was a crowd favorite tonight when he gave an amazing alley-oop to Justin Jackson.
— AllTarHeelDan DeWitt (@AllTarHeelDan) December 2, 2015
Knowing this is Paige last “hoorah” it seems like Paige is leaving it all on the court.
“This was an opportunity for us to prove that. It was a big win for us; it gives us momentum going forward.” Paige said “It means a lot, even though it’s just an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game and it’s early December. These kind of games can do a lot for a team.”
Coach Williams was more than impressed with Carolina’s win mentioning key words such as “defense” and “intensity” something that he’s been looking from his team this season.
“We played well. We did something defensively that we haven’t done all season long. Intensity level was higher, better and more consistent. Melo and Rasheed put on a show out there and it would’ve been a heck of a lot more fun the last 30 seconds had we made free throw. First part of the game I was extremely impressed especially with Brice and Kennedy and what they were doing defensively. If they can give us that energy every game, I think we can be a special basketball team.”
And a special basketball team I think this is, this ball team has a different swag about them with Paige back and I think the ACC just got that much more fun.