Marcus Paige had the best game of his career as a Tar Heel today. I’ve said this a lot this season and I’m sure that I’ll say it many times in the future as well, but the fact is, is that this statement rings true in a big way. Paige played 39 minutes in yesterday’s win against Virginia Tech including all five minutes of overtime. He tallied a career high 19 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in the game and made several key jump shots late that helped the Tar Heels build a lead too large for the Hokies to overcome.
Paige’s shot total was very much inconsistent today as it has been in recent games. He shot 14 attempts from the field including a whopping 10 from three (I had to double check to make sure I read the correctly) and made six of them, four being from long range. I think Paige stepping up and taking shots the way he did was crucial for Carolina in a game where PJ Hairston was out with injury and Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald combined 1-13 from behind the arc.
It’s pretty clear that even while James Michael McAdoo can carry the bulk of the scoring load in the paint for the Heels, Carolina is going to have to make threes in order to win. We know Bullock and McDonald, despite their performances against Virginia Tech, can shoot the three at a high consistent percentage and that Hairston can dial in from distance with the best of them, but if Paige can start knocking threes down like he did today and give Roy Williams for viable options from long range, Carolina is going to be very tough to beat.
In order for Paige to be the shooter he was today on a night to night basis, he’s going to have to be assertive. Paige is a scoring point guard by reputation, but I think his confidence to shoot the ball in games this season has been lower than Roy had hoped. It doesn’t help necessarily that his teammates, particularly the ones I’ve mentioned above, have shot well and demanded more of the ball, but if Marcus can log 19 points in more often, then he may have to shoot a little more often that he has been.
I think if Paige continues to grow at this rate, he will be an indispensable piece to the Tar Heel puzzle not only for the remainder of this season, but for the remainder of his Tar Heel career as well. His game has evolved quite nicely to this point, but we just need him to score like he did yesterday and in order for him to do that, he needs to assert himself and shoot more because evidence from yesterday’s win suggest that it will only mean success for the Heels.