Paige, Warren put on a show
Posted February 27
This was how it should be - a rivalry game going down to the wire, with two great players trading bucket for bucket.
Between them, Marcus Paige and TJ Warren combined for 71 points in an overtime thriller that went from boring to amazing in the blink of an eye.
For 35 minutes, State and Carolina looked tired and sluggish, but for the final five minutes of regulation and the entire overtime period it was as good as basketball can get.
And I didn't want it to end. When TJ Warren hit only one of two free throws at the end of the overtime period, my only thought was that - one way or the other - this amazing game was about to end, and I wanted to see five more minutes of basketball.
Still, if the State-Carolina rivalry needed an infusion of drama, it got it.
The loss likely means State will have to make the ACC Tournament final - maybe even win it - to make the NCAA Tournament. And the parallels to the Pack's last-second loss at Syracuse are hard to overlook. Another turnover... in a trap... that turned a game...
Yes, moral victories are still only losses, but State played with a passion and fire that cannot be overlooked either. And Warren - despite what a few national writers might say - looked every bit the ACC Player of the Year candidate he has been all season. A turnover and a missed free throw change nothing where that is concerned.
But while Warren remains the POY front-runner in my book, Paige is making a strong case for himself as a contender. After scoring only four points in the first half, Paige erupted for 31 in the second half and overtime. The game marked the 12th time this season Paige has hit double figures in scoring in the second half after recording single-digits in scoring in the first half. His reputation as a second half player is secure.
The shame of it all is that only one team can celebrate a win after this game - because the Heels and Pack both put on a tremendous show.