USA TODAY Sports
The Wolfpack are soundly rejected in their bid to sweep the Heels in the first time in over a decade, behind a stellar performance from Marcus Paige.
It's tough to give up your college apartment. You typically have a lot of great memories there. So many fun times with your friends, and a bunch of great stories made around thrift store furniture and tacky posters. If you're really lucky, you get to pass down your apartment or house to younger friends; an unbroken chain of good times.
Leslie was a liability for State today, with as many points as turnovers (6) and contributing only four rebounds. He spent long stretches on the bench, and a particularly poor first half for the Wolfpack can at least in part be laid at his feet. UNC came out strong, preying on State's 16 turnovers (all in the first-half) and playing at the breakneck pace they strive for. Even so, they didn't pull away until the six-minute mark of the first half, hampered as they were by a tremendous rebounding performance from Richard Howell. Carolina finished the half up six, with Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock both having good first halves. Toss in a quick second half start that put the Heels up ten in under a minute — State missed fifteen straight shots, 7 to end the first and 8 to start the second — and for a moment we all thought a rout was on.
That wasn't the case. State began to claw their way back, and UNC caught a vicious case of the stupids. By the first TV timeout, it was a one point game. After another few minutes of struggling, Roy Williams benched four of the starters to run a line up of Marcus Paige, Luke Davis, J.P. Tokoto, Jackson Simmons, and Desmond Hubert.
It was by no means a successful lineup. State responded with two Scott Wood threes and took their largest lead of the half at four. But it allowed the Heels' starters to catch a breather, and get their heads on straight. The rest would be key in the game, but the player who took the most away from the novel lineup was the one starter who remained in the game. Marcus Paige was on fire from the moment the other four starters hit the pine.
Paige would score all fourteen of his points following that substitution. He would routinely blow by the slower Wood, and his defense frustrated a usually unflappable Lorenzo Brown. Paige would finish with 8 assists and no turnovers. He kept Brown fro finding State's leading scorer, Howell, who got shockingly few touches down the stretch. And more importantly, the Carolina offense is a different animal when Paige is a scoring threat, in the same way they are when Hairston is lighting it up. Defenses can't just collapse on McAdoo and Bullock when there's a third scoring option, and the way the floor can be spread just opens up so many more opportunities.
What we saw today was the UNC of the the future, the same thing we've caught fleeting glimpses of off and on this season. The defense picked the Wolfpack apart, while the offense was able to move the ball in ways we've seen far too little of this season. This team can't overwhelm opponents inside like we've become used to seeing, but they can excite, they can outrun and they can win against good teams. State came in with only their second chance to sweep the Heels since 2002; they left with their eleventh straight loss in the Dean Dome. I'm sure this team will frustrate me again before the year is out, but this is a solid win. I hope to see a lot more of this team before the year is out.
Now if I can just stop McAdoo from giving me a heart attack before the season ends...