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Adam Gold

A freshman growth spurt

Posted February 23, 2013
Updated February 24, 2013

Coaches love to say that there are no freshman come March. It's a cute cliche, and I'm not sure it always applies, but I know this much; Marcus Paige grew up a ton in four weeks.

On Jan. 26, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, Paige was like a teenager on a date with Kate Upton in Carolina's 91-83 loss to the Wolfpack. He looked terrified, and played worse, scoring just seven points while turning it over three times in 29 nervous minutes. In a season where North Carolina isn't blessed with their usual array of first-round NBA draft talent, the only way the Heels are going to be a factor is if all of their better players are contributing something positive to the cause. UNC pulls away from NC State late in 76-65 win Slideshow: UNC pulls away from NC State late in 76-65 win

Four weeks later, it was a totally different story for the first year player from Marion, Iowa.

Paige scored all 14 of his points in the second half as the Tar Heels picked up their best win of the season, a 76-65 victory over rival NC State that will go a long way towards cementing UNC as an NCAA Tournament team.

Saturday was a lot more than statistics for Paige. While his eight assist, three steal and zero turnover performance screams out for attention, it was as much the timing of his contributions that were as telling as anything you'd find in a box score.

Paige: We're really starting to mature Paige: We're really starting to mature

With the Tar Heels on the ropes a bit after gagging away a 10-point, second half lead, Paige re-entered the game in what amounted to a Carolina blue line change. A careless, mistake-filled 3 1/2 minute stretch had allowed the Pack to run off a 13-2 spurt and suddenly it appeared that NC State had assumed control of the game. But Paige, the only real offensive threat in a make-shift line up on the floor at the time, drilled a left-wing three-pointer putting Carolina back on top by two and the Wolfpack momentum was stalled.

Five and a half minutes later, Paige buried another long-range jumper giving Carolina a 57-55 lead that would never be relinquished. That shot was the start of a stretch in which Paige scored 10 points, made four of five free throws and thoroughly outplayed his much more heralded opponent, Wolfpack point guard Lorenzo Brown. In all, the freshman, who just four weeks ago looked as though he couldn't draw a breath against State, played with poise and confidence and provided 11 points, a steal and an assist in a decisive 27-8 explosion that lifted North Carolina into third place in the ACC standings with four games to play.

Reggie Bullock was excellent for UNC. His 22 points and career best 13 rebounds were critical to the cause for the Tar Heels tonight. P.J. Hairston continues to be a star-in-the-making with a dozen points and a defensive effort on State forward Calvin Leslie that contributed to the pre-season player of the year's six-point, six-turnover debacle. And, James Michael McAdoo held his own against Wolfpack senior bruiser Richard Howell with a 14-point, seven-rebound night.

But, when Roy Williams and his coaching staff review this game, they're going to see that it was largely the timely excellence of Paige, the freshman, that was instrumental in that final 10-minute surge and a major factor between winning and losing.

You can grow up an awful lot in four weeks. Paige is proof of that.

18 Comments

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  • plansguy Feb 25, 11:23 a.m.

    WHY THE HECK DID IT TAKE 20 SOME GAMES BEFORE OL ROY MADE A CHANGE

    — Posted by kbradtech

    Only Roy knows the answer to that question, and he doesn't want to share it:)

    — Posted by StunGunn

    And right now, I don't care. Roll on Heels!

  • plansguy Feb 25, 11:21 a.m.

    When Roy had the health scare, he said was so grateful to be okay, and he would enjoy coaching... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    Ditto JG!

  • StunGunn Feb 25, 7:18 a.m.

    WHY THE HECK DID IT TAKE 20 SOME GAMES BEFORE OL ROY MADE A CHANGE

    — Posted by kbradtech

    Only Roy knows the answer to that question, and he doesn't want to share it:)

  • Hokies94 Feb 24, 3:38 p.m.

    UNC clicked on all cylinders yesterdy. Paige did a super job.

  • StunGunn Feb 24, 2:13 p.m.

    When Roy had the health scare, he said was so grateful to be okay, and he would enjoy coaching more than ever before. I had my doubts as Roy is Roy, and he seemed very frustrated earlier in the season when his team couldn't run the high octane offense that is the cornerstone of his teams. Roy made adjustments to his coaching and his lineup, and just look at the results! I think this is one of Roy's best coaching jobs ever. I'm glad Roy is healthy, and I'm glad he's at the helm of his alma mater.

  • 4tarheels Feb 24, 1:01 p.m.

    Roy is doing a great job of coaching this year. He basically lost last year's team to the NBA and now he's taking a new group of players and got them improving at the right time of year. GO HEELS!!!

  • tarheelbb1 Feb 24, 12:53 p.m.

    Bet writing that hurt Adam pretty bad.

    — Posted by heelsforever

    Since Maryland is leaving the ACC, I hope they are taking Adam Gold with them.

  • kbradtech Feb 24, 12:29 p.m.

    WHY THE HECK DID IT TAKE 20 SOME GAMES BEFORE OL ROY MADE A CHANGE

  • hi_i_am_wade Feb 24, 12:24 p.m.

    The smaller lineup has better team chemistry. They work well together.

  • ncstateforever Feb 24, 11:54 a.m.

    Tried to edit but it wouldn't let me I know I misspelled a couple of words. criticize, and supposed.

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