Coming into tonight with a nine game win streak, a new ranking, and a rivalry, the UNC basketball team had a lot on their plate when they were set to take on the NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh on Wednesday night.
The first half did not go in the Tar Heels favor and the Wolfpack went into halftime with a 36-24 lead. The Heels shot 38.5% from the field in the first half, while going 0-3 from long distance. They also were shooting 50% from the charity stripe going into halftime.
But every fan of this year’s Tar Heel basketball knows one thing: the second half is their half. At least in most cases. And if that’s debatable, the second half was surely their half last week when the Blue Devils visited Chapel Hill.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige had just four points in the first half. He finished with a career-high 35 points. Yes, 35 points after only 4 points at the half. Paige was 9-of-15 from the field, while going 7-10 from behind the arc. Paige also finished with six rebounds and five assists.
And the second half proved to be something better than the first, but it was not enough to win the game in regulation.
Paige scored UNC’s final seven points including two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining in the game. Two free throws that would have secured a 10th-straight win for the Tar Heels. However, that was not the case due to guard Leslie McDonald fouling NC State’s T.J. Warren, which sent him to the line to shoot free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining. Warren knocked down both to tie the game up for the Wolfpack. Paige’s long three point attempt at the buzzer was short and the game went into overtime.
Overtime started out going NC State’s way. Warren scored six straight points to start off the extra period to give the Wolfpack the lead. But Paige answered by scoring eight of the next ten points for UNC and the Heels pulled within two with 42 ticks remaining. Forward James Michael McAdoo tied it up after a nice pass went inside to McAdoo from freshman guard Nate Britt. Warren was fouled with 7.7 seconds to go and hit one of two free throws to give NC State a one point edge.
And that is where things went the Tar Heels way and PNC Arena was silenced.
The Heels had no timeouts and the ball was inbounded to Paige. Paige took off down the court while forward Brice Johnson set a high screen for Paige. Paige used the screen, drove left, and went around Warren for the layup to secure the 85-84 win with 0.9 seconds left. Warren’s last second heave fell short and the Tar Heels were able to leave Raleigh with their 10th-straight victory.
If there are two things NC State teams have learned in the past 2 years of the rivalry, it’s these two things:
1. Don’t punt it to Gio.
2. Don’t let Marcus Paige go coast-to-coast with 7.7 seconds remaining.