A week ago, the Tar Heels scored 58 points in the first half and shot 74% from the floor.
What a difference a week makes as the Tar Heels swung to the polar opposite end of the spectrum on the way to a 62-54 win at home.
To say UNC struggled on the offensive end is probably putting it mildly. The Tar Heels shot 27% from the floor in the first half and despite enjoying a sizable physical advantage, was outrebounded 25-20. The saving grace for UNC is Holy Cross was worse in terms of shooting the basketball but still managed a 13-2 run knot the game at 25 going into intermission. Couple the poor shooting with some early foul trouble for James Michael McAdoo and an 0-6 shooting performance from J.P. Tokoto, the Tar Heels were in a somewhat unexpected dogfight at home.
Enter Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson.
Paige, playing most of the game at the two guard, asserted himself scoring 16 of his 23 points in the second half to give the Tar Heels nominal control of the game back. With the contest knotted at 35, Paige and Johnson combined for 10 of UNC's next 12 points to open up a double-digit advantage which the Heels largely maintained the rest of the way. Paige in particular made a concerted effort to look for his shot and be the focal point of the offense while Johnson was very much an emotional catalyst in a game he said the Tar Heels were "flat" and "lacked energy"
If it felt very much like a two man effort, the stats don't offer anything to dissuade that notion. Tokoto did rally from a poor shooting first half to score six points and dish out five assists. McAdoo struggled with his shot missing several jumpers but was 5-6 from the line and ended the game with 11 points. McAdoo continues to struggle in games where he doesn't get off to a good start or is hampered in some way, such as two early fouls which limited his first half playing time. Kennedy Meeks and Joel James each had four points with Meeks collecting eight rebounds in only 13 minutes on playing time.
To be certain, UNC's most prominent issue is offensive execution, something Roy Williams noted saying there was not enough patience or passes in offensive sets to get the best shot. Paige and Johnson echoed this sentiment saying it was a primary topic of conversation in the locker room at halftime. Holy Cross was never really a threat offensively speaking shooting 29% from the floor and 5-22 from three. This game was about the lack of offense for the Tar Heels as the available personnel searches for their roles and the team's overall identity.