North Carolina earned one of its best regular season wins in the Roy Williams era on Saturday with a 93-84 victory over reigning National Champion Louisville. Only three Tar Heels scored in double figures, but everyone, from walk ons Wade Moody and Luke Davis to de facto team leader Marcus Paige contributed. Paige did a lot more than contribute today, carrying this team to the promised land with 36 points. UNC is now 4-1 and feels a lot better about their chances this season than they did a week ago after the Belmont loss.
In the first half, Louisville got off to a hot start shooting, with Russ Smith leading the way. But UNC hung around, tying the game in the finishing moments of the first half after a Marcus Paige three pointer. It was 46 all at halftime, but UNC was in some foul trouble with Tokoto, Britt, and Paige all having to sit. Brice Johnston helped the Heels late in the first with some nice energy plays. He would finish with 13 points.
In the second half, UNC grinded out the victory by finishing at the rim, playing good defense, and rebounding the basketball. Freshman Kennedy Meeks played a very good game, sending countless outlet passes to fellow Tar Heels and finishing with a team high five assists. Those outlet passes sort of looked like the Marquise Williams to Ryan Switzer or Quinshad Davis connection yesterday.
It was an important win for the Heels, giving them confidence that they can play with anybody in the country as long as they hit their free throws and hustle. And UNC fans also found out a lot about what this team is going to look like at their best this season without PJ Hariston and Leslie McDonald. UNC will dominate inside, hope Marcus Paige is having a good shooting day, and out hustle the opposition to victory.
North Carolina has a couple of days to rest before heading on the road to face UAB next week. This game was a big step in the right direction for UNC, proving to themselves and the nation that the Belmont game was a fluke. The player that had the most to say was Marcus Paige, who is quickly growing up and becoming the man for this team. He plays hard, scores well, and knows how to finish in this offense. The sky is the limit for Paige and UNC as the season goes on and as each continues to improve.