The story that most will talk about after North Carolina’s 78-47 defeat of Notre Dame Saturday night will be their great defensive performance – holding the Irish to only a 30% field goal percentage and forcing 17 turnovers. But it was the improved shooting of senior guard Marcus Paige that may serve the Tar Heels the most as they head into the ACC Tournament Championship and the NCAA Tournament.
“I had a lot of confidence coming into the ACC tournament that I was going to be able to knock down some shots. To finally do that is a big weight off by back.”
And that confidence showed in his first shot – a 3-point attempt, in stride, which was nothing but net.
Much talk this season has been about Paige’s off and on play. He’s averaging 11 points per game on just 39% shooting from the field and 33% from behind the arc the year – a far cry from what everyone expected from a guy who was voted ACC Pre-season co-player of the year with UVA’s Malcolm Brogdon. But his 16 point performance on 5 for 9 shooting (4 of 7 from three) and 7 assist performance against Notre Dame is exactly what North Carolina will need if they will make a Final Four run.
While many are surprised to see “the old” Paige, he said despite his shooting struggles, he never doubted himself.
“I know I’m capable of playing at this level. So it was just a matter of time before I got my confidence back and played at the level I was previously playing at.”
Although Marcus has had a few impressive games this year, Friday felt different, but not that the old Paige returned because he never left, he just got his swag back.
- North Carolina’s 31-point margin of victory is the largest ever in an ACC Tournament semifinal game, bettering UNC’s 30-point win over Maryland (88-58) in 1989 and Virginia’s 29-point win over Georgia Tec (96-67) in 1983.
- UNC will be appearing in the ACC championship game for the fifth time in six years and for the seventh time in 13 years under head coach Roy Williams.
- North Carolina’s 19-point halftime lead was its largest versus an ACC opponent this season.
- The Tar Heels put together a 24-0 run that spanned nine minutes and 20 seconds (the final 5:52 of the first half through the first 3:28 of the second half). UNC held the Fighting Irish without a field goal for a stretch of 11 minutes and 21 seconds (the final 6:12 of the first half through the 14:51 mark of the second half).