UNC Basketball: Takeaways From UNCG


The No. 24-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (7-3) defeated the UNC-Greensboro Spartans (4-7) 79-56 at Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday night. This was the first game for the Tar Heels since their dismantling at the hands of Kentucky last Saturday. Kennedy Meeks led all scorers with 18 points on 8-for-9 shooting from the floor, meanwhile Marcus Paige continued his horrendous shooting streak this season, scoring five points on 1-for-8 shooting.

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After the tough loss at Kentucky, the Tar Heels came into Greensboro and played well to their strengths in this win. With the help of Joel James and Isaiah Hicks off the bench, the UNC frontcourt dominated the boards, out-rebounding UNCG 51-26. The Tar Heels significantly improved upon their second-chance points as well, converting their misses into 16 points. Because of how poorly this Tar Heel team tends to shoot, seeing offensive rebounds turn into points is a good sign for Roy Williams, who has expressed his displeasure with his team’s effort in those areas in their previous two losses.

Positives can also be taken from the production of the UNC bench. The Tar Heel bench outscored the bench of UNCG 37-17, highlighted by Joel James tying his career high with 11 points, and Joel Berry and Isaiah Hicks adding eight points each of their own. Berry’s contributions are especially important as the aforementioned Marcus Paige continues to move himself out of the running for ACC Player of the Year, and any other honors experts expected him to challenge for.

Paige’s struggles, especially against an injury-ridden, Southern Conference opponent such as UNCG, should be of significant concern to Roy Williams and his team’s historically horrendous perimeter shooting. Similar to last season’s team, if Paige struggles, the team struggles. The departure of Leslie McDonald, last season’s only other perimeter threat for the Tar Heels, was certainly not expected to affect this season’s team as much as it has. However, Paige missed two wide open 3-point shots Tuesday night, and that is something the Marcus Paige of last season ever did.

Nov 22, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) watches free throws during the second half against the Davidson Wildcats at Time Warner Cable Arena. North Carolina won 90-72. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA Today.

There is plenty of speculation beginning to arise about Paige’s struggles. However, it is becoming clear that his current role for this Tar Heel team is not one he can be successful in. If there is anything to be learned from this game, it is that Paige can no longer be the scoring threat he was last year with the lack of perimeter talent around him. If a soft defense like that of UNCG was able to hold the Tar Heels to shooting 21.4 percent from beyond the arc, there is no argument against there needing to be some changes in the starting lineup Roy Williams has tried to stick with this season.

Last season, among the flurry of different lineup changes Roy Williams made throughout the year, Marcus Paige was moved to the two-position, and Nate Britt played most of the games as the primary point guard. This strategy helped Paige move off the ball, allowed ball screens to be set on the perimeter, and opened up the floor for Paige for catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Moving Paige off the ball also takes a lot of pressure from him, and it seems he may need that as he has tended to look overwhelmed in the second half of close games this season; the same situations he flourished in last season.

Although the Tar Heels have a strong frontcourt to bail out the perimeter players against easier opponents (except against Butler and Iowa…), this was only UNCG. The Heels will play against No. 12 Ohio State in Chicago this Saturday, and will need greater production from Marcus Paige and the rest of their backcourt if they have any hopes of winning what will prove to be a very important game for them when the committee looks back at their résumé in March.