Talking Points: Paige & Warren create instant classic
Posted February 27, 2014
1. Let's put aside the petty differences between North Carolina and N.C. State for a moment. Take a break from analyzing foul distribution and obsessively checking RPI. All of it takes a backseat to the show put on by Marcus Paige and T.J. Warren inside PNC Arena Wednesday night.
Forget the lack of buzz heading into the game. Never mind the foul plagued ending of the first half. Toss out the Wolfpack scoring drought and lead-cutting grind by the Tar Heels to start the second half. The performances by Paige and Warren elevated this game into instant classic territory. They worked the building into a lather by trading big plays all the way through overtime.
Eventually somebody had to miss.
Unfortunately for NC State, it was Warren. The sophomore was sent to the line after James Michael McAdoo was called for a foul along the baseline. Warren missed the first free throw, but made the second to give the Wolfpack an 84-83 lead with 8 seconds left on the clock. Plenty of time for the Tar Heels to get the ball in the hands of Paige, who eventually drove a dagger into the heart of the Wolfpack.
Paige finished the night with 35 points and was 7-12 from beyond the arc. Warren had 36 points, which now gives him seven games of 30 or more this season. Paige and Warren combined to score 19 points in overtime and 71 points for the game.
"We've known each other for a long time," Paige said of Warren after the game. "Both of us were in a rhythm and you try to do whatever you can to help your team. Obviously when I had the hot hand, I wanted to take it upon myself to try and match what he was doing for his team."
The gamesmanship between Paige and Warren was outstanding. All we can do as observers is tip our caps and thank them for an excellent night of basketball.
2. North Carolina extended its winning streak to 10 games, making its 1-4 start to conference play seem like distant memory. While Roy Williams should get ACC Coach of the Year consideration for the turnaround, the Tar Heels aren't here without the remarkable play of Paige.
The trio of Paige, McAdoo and Leslie McDonald dropped 51 points on NC State during the first meeting in Chapel Hill. McAdoo and McDonald combined for only 10 points on 3-of-16 from the field in Raleigh. Paige wasn't much better in the first half, adding only 4 points on 2-of-6 shooting.
But the second half is where Paige shines and the reason why he's muscled his way into ACC Player of the Year race.
Paige's knowledge of the game, absorption of everything happening on the court and his ability to adjust make him dangerous. Teams also don't have the luxury of focusing their defensive efforts on Paige any more. The Tar Heels have been getting consistent contributions from other players during this winning streak. Against NC State, J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson made a big differences.
3. Warren should also be in the discussion for ACC Player of the Year and a lock for first-team All ACC, but NC State's record is casting a shadow over his great regular season.
While that didn't keep Virginia Tech's Erick Green from winning the ACC's top individual honor last season, the conference is currently loaded with viable candidates. Duke's Jabari Parker and Syracuse's Tyler Ennis are top of mind for most voters. Throw in Paige and it's easy to see why Warren has been slotted down.
The definition of "player of the year" is intentionally vague and open to interpretation. Some voters put more value on conference stats, while others look at the entire body of work. There are voters who give higher priority to players on winning teams and right now that's the biggest knock on Warren.
4. Is NC State ready for the cold truth about their NCAA Tournament chances? The bubble burst tonight with a loss to North Carolina.
The Wolfpack have an 0-8 record against the RPI Top 50 teams. While the tournament field is soft this season, their best wins against Florida State and Tennessee aren't enough to make NC State stand out in the vast sea of mediocrity. Potential wins over Miami and Boston College won't help. Even a road victory at Pittsburgh might look unimpressive considering the Panthers have put themselves on the bubble without quality wins.
5. Because we can't talk about a basketball game in the ACC without fouls being brought up, let's just put it out there. North Carolina had 23 fouls called compared to 21 for NC State. The Tar Heels were 18-31 from the free throw line, while the Wolfpack were 19-31.
At one point it seemed like every player on the floor was saddled with three fouls. Eventually Warren picked up his 4th foul with 8:01 left in regulation, but he managed to finish the game.
Like any game, some calls made sense and some did not. Ultimately, fans will see what they want to see and no play better exemplifies this phenomenon than the trap set on Warren toward the end of regulation.
6. Lost in all the madness created by Paige and Warren is BeeJay Anya, who literally flexed on North Carolina and was a big difference maker early in the game. He dunked his way to 10 points and pulled down 4 rebounds before picking up his fourth foul with 10:08 remaining in the game.
He was also the inspiration for most creative non-academic scandal related sign inside PNC Arena.
Overall the atmosphere was good. In fact, one might think these schools have some sort of rivalry.