In a slugfest between North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and N.C. State’s T.J. Warren, it was Paige who delivered the final blow.
Paige’s driving lay-up with 0.9 seconds left in overtime lifted the 19th-ranked Tar Heels to an 85-84 win over the Wolfpack Wednesday at PNC Arena, silencing a hostile crowd and capping one of the most memorable back-and-forth displays between two players in the history of the rivalry.
Paige finished with 35 points, including 21 in the second half and 10 in overtime. It was the 12th time this season that he scored four or fewer points in the first half and 10 or more in the second half — a trend that gave him the nickname “second-half Marcus” even before this latest effort.
“He’s not going to win many fights — I’d hate to see him in a fight,” UNC coach Roy Williams said of the 175-pound sophomore. “But by golly I’d love to have him in my foxhole because I want tough people and he’s as tough a little sucker as I’ve ever seen.”
Durham native and ACC leading scorer T.J. Warren put in 36 points, including two free throws with 1.5 seconds left to send the game to overtime, but he missed a free throw with 7.7 seconds left in the extra session to give Paige a chance to win.
Paige used a screen by Brice Johnson at the 3-point line to beat Desmond Lee, beat help defender Jordan Vandenberg to the basket and scored over Warren to seal the 10th straight win for UNC (21-7, 11-4) and the Tar Heels’ 16th win in 17 games against the Wolfpack.
“He’s a confident youngster,” Williams said. “He’s a tough youngster, competitive, willing to try and make plays. … Doesn’t mind taking shots when they really mean something.”
After going 2 of 6 in the first half, Paige finished 11 of 21 from the field and 7 of 12 from long range, scoring the most points by a Tar Heel since Harrison Barnes had 40 in the 2011 ACC Tournament semifinals. Paige also managed the offense as the Tar Heels only committed one turnover in the final 25 minutes after having 11 in the first half.
“I’m doing things to try and change and be more efficient (at the start), but the second half is where players are made and where the game is won,” Paige said. “I was able to make up for my poor performance in the first half.”
Paige’s contributions were needed on a night when UNC’s next two-highest scoring options struggled. James Michael McAdoo shot 2 of 11 and Leslie McDonald was held to two points. Sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists but missed the final 3:27 with cramps.
McAdoo was able to tie the game with 29 seconds left in overtime on a lay-up off an assist from Paige, but he was called for an off-the-ball foul on Warren with 7.7 seconds left, causing Williams to sit on the court in disbelief. Warren missed the first and made the second, setting up Paige’s final drive.
“A lot of crazy calls, a lot of crazy plays, but at the end of the day we have Marcus Paige on our team,” McAdoo said. “In a game like today, when you have two guys that are hot, you don’t just want to sit back and take a back seat, but you kind of just have to realize that tonight’s not your night, and just make it easier for him.”
UNC hadn’t led since 5-4 until Tokoto’s drive put the Tar Heels ahead 53-52 with seven minutes remaining in regulation. The game would remain tight after that.
The Tar Heels were just 8 of 21 from the line heading into the stretch run but Paige and Nate Britt made their final eight free throws of the second half, though Warren consistently answers with drives to the basket.
N.C. State (17-11, 7-8) set up for a last shot, but McAdoo blocked Warren and Tyler Lewis fouled Paige while chasing down the loose ball.
The ACC’s leading free-throw shooter made both with 3.6 seconds to play to put the Tar Heels up 71-69, and N.C. State scrambled to set up a play without having any timeouts left.
After the first inbounds attempt was knocked out of bounds, McDonald was whistled for holding Warren with 1.5 seconds left. The sophomore knocked down both to send the game to overtime for just the seventh time in the 226-game history of the rivalry.
In the extra session, Warren started where he left off, scoring the first six points to make it 77-71, and N.C. State scored on its first six possessions.
Paige missed his first three shots — two were blocked — but made a pair from long range and two free throws to get UNC within 83-81. After Warren was trapped and turned the ball over in the backcourt, Paige found McAdoo inside for a lay-up to tie the game with 29 seconds left.
Warren’s free throw on the next possession just set the stage for an ever more excruciating loss for N.C. State, which needed a marquee win to boost their slim chances for an NCAA Tournament berth.
“I’m exhausted, but that’s fun,” Paige said. “This is something that we’ll remember, we’ll talk about. We’ll remember that we played horrible at State, T.J. Warren was killing us, but we grinded it out.”
|No. 19 NORTH CAROLINA 85, NC STATE 84, OT|
Percentages: FG .455, FT .581.
3-Point Goals: 7-15, .467 (Paige 7-12, McDonald 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 4.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Johnson, McAdoo).
Turnovers: 12 (McDonald 2, McAdoo 2, Johnson 2, Meeks, Tokoto, Britt, Paige).
Steals: 4 (Paige 2, Britt, McAdoo).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .468, FT .613.
3-Point Goals: 7-22, .318 (Turner 4-11, Lee 1-3, Lewis 1-3, Warren 1-4, Washington 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 5.
Blocked Shots: 10 (Vandenberg 4, Washington 4, Anya, Warren).
Turnovers: 10 (Turner 3, Warren 3, Washington 2, Anya, Lewis).
Steals: 4 (Turner, Barber, Lewis, Lee).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Les Jones, Brian Dorsey, Doug Shows.