UNC Basketball: Takeaways from the NC State Game


On Wednesday night, the UNC basketball team was able to escape against NC State in a game that was much closer than it should have been.  A 12-point Carolina lead evaporated to the point where NC State was inches away from tying the game in the last seconds.  Except for the last seven minutes, in which UNC was outscored 25-15, Carolina played very well.  There was a lot of good passes, good shots and good hustle from Carolina.

Now that my heart-rate has gone down and I have had a few minutes to catch my breath, I can think about the game more objectively.  Of course, a win is a win is a win, and as a fan you’ve got to be happy with the result, but what did we learn about the Heels from this game?  Here are the key takeaways from the game.

Jan 3, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Nate Britt (0) drives to the basket during the second half against the Clemson Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum. Tar Heels won 74-50. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

1.  Nate Britt is not quite ready to lead the Tar Heels

Britt got a significant amount of playing time against State.  This did allow Marcus Paige to be a shooting guard (where he played extremely well), but did show that Britt still has a lot of maturing to do before he can play point guard-full time for Carolina.  Britt had just one assist and had just four points against State.  He shot one of five from the field and had turnovers on two consecutive possessions in the second half, allowing NC State to get momentum.  He missed a lay-up late in the game, and clearly did not look as comfortable as Paige has at the point.  Now, I don’t doubt that Britt will one-day be a very good player for the Heels, but today is not that day.  Now, Carolina is still best with Marcus Paige at point guard.

2.  Marcus Paige is hitting his stride

Jan 10, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) reacts in the second half. The Tar Heels defeated the Cardinals 72-71 at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After his game-winning shot Saturday against Louisville, Marcus Paige played his best game of the season Wednesday night against NC State.  He made all five of his three-pointers and all six of his free throws en route to a game high 25 points.  He shot better than he has this season, and looked like the Marcus Paige who was one of the ACC’s best players last year.  He also had great hustle plays down the stretch, beating NC State to a few key loose balls.  He also had nine assists and no turnovers.  Paige is clearly Carolina’s best player, and the team will need him to play like he did tonight if they are going to make a deep tournament run.  Hopefully he can build on tonight and continue to play well the rest of the season.

3.  Carolina is getting hot

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

NC State is obviously not the best team in the ACC, but they were coming off a close loss to 2nd ranked Virginia and a big win over 4th ranked Duke (in the same building where they played Carolina).  Despite a raucous crowd and a hot Wolfpack team, the Heels dominated NC State for much of the game, especially in the first fourteen minutes of the second half, when they stretched their four-point lead to 12 points.  Carolina has now won seven of eight, with the lone loss being a heartbreaking one-point loss to #13 Notre Dame.  They have proven they can play with the best teams in college basketball, with four wins in six games against top-25 teams.  They beat 5th ranked Louisville on Saturday, and have played their best basketball of the season.  They clearly are more comfortable than they were at the beginning of the season and are looking like a very difficult team to beat.  I think Carolina will continue to get better as the year goes on, and will be a team that you don’t want to face come tournament time.