Tar Heel fans were treated to a gem of a game when Carolina took on NC State in Raleigh. It was a close, back and forth contest, with neither team able to take a commanding lead. Marcus Paige pushed UNC over the hill and capped off a career night with his game winning lay-up with under a second left on the clock. UNC improved to 11-4 in the ACC and kept their 10 game winning streak alive.
Paige joins former Tar Heel Giovanni Bernard on the list of UNC stars who have beaten NC State in dramatic fashion over the last couple years. Gio did it on a punt return on October 27th, 2012, while Paige’s lay-up beat NC State in basketball for the second time this season. Naturally, the next question would be, which one was better? Gio’s Punt return or Paige’s game-winner?
Let’s break it down, Dr. Jack style, to try to decide which heroic performance was one better. Take a look at the videos at the bottom of the post, and make sure you weigh in with your opinion on Facebook, Twitter and in the comments below!
In 2012, the Tar Heels had not beaten NC State in football since 2007 and had lost some tough ones to State in that stretch. Under first year HC Larry Fedora, the Heels put a big emphasis on beating the Wolfpack in front of a home crowd in Kenan Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels were riding a nine game winning streak and were ranked in 19th in the country. They had already beaten up NC State earlier in the season, so the game did not have quite the hype coming in that UNC NC State did in football in 2012.
When you go back and look at Marcus Paige’s shot Wednesday night, and really all of his shots in that game, they were hard. TJ Warren had a hand up in Paige’s face, and he had to hang in the air, game in the balance, and glance the ball off the glass for the game -winner. It should also be noted that he made the shot on the road, in front of a hostile crowd in PNC arena. It was a tough shot, and he delivered.
Meanwhile, Gio’s punt return, when I watched it again this morning, looked a lot like a product of really good blocking and poor coverage by NC State. Gio did not do any “Switzer-esque” jukes or slow down, speed up moves, he just had the vision and the speed to follow his blockers all the way into the end zone. Taking nothing away from Gio, I think this one goes to Marcus Paige.
The jury is still out of this one a little bit, as fans are still processing what just went down Wednesday night. But the basketball game was so exciting, with seemingly every possession featuring a clutch Marcus Paige shot or TJ Warren floater. It was a back and forth game, with all the drama or ‘thrill” Heels fans’ hearts could take.
As for Gio’s punt return, watching him sprint into that end zone live in Kenan Stadium was as exciting as it gets in sports. Both of these were so good, you can’t pick a winner.
Performance Earlier in the Game
In the UNC State football game, Gio was his normal, dominant self. He rushed for 135 yards, 5.9 per carry, and scored two touchdowns on the afternoon. This was all before the big punt return that ended NC State’s streak of dominance in football for so many years.
Paige however, has to win this one for his second half performance. In UNC’s last four single digit wins, Paige is averaging 17.8 points in the second half after averaging just 3.8 in the first half (Per ESPN Stats and Info). In this game, he outdid himself, hitting seven three pointers on the way to 31 points in the 2nd half and OT. While Gio’s two touchdowns are impressive, they were both less than 10 yard runs, while Paige’s second half performance was way above his average in points for a game (17.5) and just as clutch as his final shot.
Every iconic moment has to have a great radio/TV call to go along with it. “Send it in Jerome!!!” is just one example of classic TV calls that will live on forever and enhance the legend of the action on the court.
For Gio’s punt return, Jones Angell had one of the most iconic calls in UNC history with “No he’s not, yes he is!!!” as Gio scampered into the end zone for six points. Wednesday night’s call was good, but nothing close to the Gio punt return’s quality or legend. You can hear both radio calls in the YouTube videos below, but I think this one goes to Gio.
The Tar Heels had already beaten the Wolfpack once in the 2013-2014 season before Paige’s epic lay-up, so UNC fans already had all the bragging rights in the rivalry before the game Wednesday night. However, Gio’s punt return completely flipped the bragging rights in football from State’s side to UNC’s. I think Gio takes home this category too.
Final Count: Marcus Paige: 2, Giovanni Bernard: 3, Tied: 1
For now, the final victory goes to Giovanni Bernard. Take a look at the videos again and decide for yourself which was better, if you can: Marcus Paige’s game winning lay-up or Gio Bernard’s legendary punt return?