UNC was uneven at times but had more than enough to handle Boston College. Here is what we learned.
Welcome back(sort of) Marcus Paige
After a stretch of four games where Marcus Paige hit just one three in 22 attempts, the Tar Heel senior finally got his shot to drop. With 17:21 left in the first half, Paige pulled hit his first three since January 9th at Syracuse breaking a career worst slump that had seemingly played havoc with his confidence and overall offensive game. Hitting the first three appeared to be a liberating moment. Paige said afterwards he breathed a sigh of relief feeling that he was "okay." Paige went on to hit two more triples and finished the game shooting 4-9 overall and 3-8 from three for 12 points. The free throw shooting continued to suffer with two misses on his first two attempts and a 1-4 shooting day at the line.
In that respect the value of this game was to simply get Paige off the snide. Him putting up big numbers would have been nice. Short of that some type of breakthrough so he can stop answering questions about the slump is the next best thing. Seeing the ball go in the basket should do wonders for him in terms of confidence and perhaps allow him to play more than think. Paige has generally played well in marquee type games which UNC has two of coming up this week. In short, Paige got the engine primed in this game and is ready for the meat of the ACC schedule.
Hello Mr. Pinson
With much of the attention on Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson's struggles have not been as much of a hot topic. When ACC play opened, Pinson scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers in the win over Clemson on December 30th. Since then, it had been very much famine for the Greensboro sophomore. In games against Georgia Tech and Florida State he committed eight fouls in just 27 minutes of playing time. Over the past six games Pinson had gone 2-11 from the floor and 0-11 from three. His presence on the court, in some instances, had done more harm than good with questionable decisions.
That changed versus Boston College. Pinson made several solid plays on the way to nine points, six assists and just one turnover. His drives to the basket, which can be adventures at times, resulted in controlled plays and solid assists. On one drive, Pinson took it to the basket on the baseline and instead of forcing a shot up in a bad position kicked to Joel Berry for an open three. Pinson played top notch defense with two steals and had just one foul in 15 minutes.
Getting Paige going was obviously very important but Pinson finding his niche again as a defender and offensive facilitator who is a threat from the perimeter could also prove valuable. Here's hoping Justin Jackson's two late baskets will jumpstart his game in similar fashion.
Joel Berry Filling Big Shoes
In Roy Williams' offense the point guard is easily the most important position on the floor. College basketball is also very much a guard's game making what happens in the backcourt the linchpin for the function and flow of the offense. As Joel Berry stepped into the role this season as UNC's primary floor general he was filling some pretty big shoes. Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson, Kendall Marshall and teammate Marcus Paige set a high bar for point guard play at UNC under Roy Williams. .Early in the season it felt like Berry may have been a bit overwhelmed by the role but not anymore. With Paige and Jackson struggling, Berry has carried the load on the perimeter and did so again today.
Against Boston College, Berry showed the full repertoire of his offense. He hit open threes and also finished around the rim showing off his strength. His zero turnovers versus the Eagles marked a third straight turnover free game and his fourth in five contests. In ACC play his TO% is 11.6 which is 15th among league players and 2nd to Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson among point guards. Berry has hit double figures in all eight of UNC's conference games while hitting 39% of his threes to go with an offensive rating of 123.8.
With Paige and Jackson struggling, Berry and Brice Johnson's play has very much kept the Tar Heels afloat offensively. In Berry's case he has been filling the gap left by the struggles from his teammates in the backcourt. Assuming Paige and Jackson can get back on track, adding their production to Berry's positions this team to readily compete for a national title.