It has been a wildly interesting week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
First, the North Carolina basketball program reinstated veteran guard Leslie McDonald after a season-long suspension on Wednesday, giving the team a much-needed injection of both talent and experience. Then, things took a bit of a downturn, as the school announced that arguably their best player, P.J. Hairston, would miss the remainder of the season due to NCAA eligibility issues that have kept him off the court for the duration of the 2013-2014 season.
On Saturday, though, the Tar Heels were a comfortable favorite over the mid-major darling Davidson Wildcats, and things seemed to be heading for a nice, easy victory in Chapel Hill. Then, the game tipped off and things were much more difficult than expected.
Davidson played an outstanding 40 minutes of basketball, including a 44-point second half explosion, and with that, the Wildcats took the Tar Heels to overtime at 79-79. Fortunately for Carolina, the momentum that took Davidson to that overtime period fell by the wayside, and when Brian Sullivan’s three-point attempt went begging at the close of regulation, that was their last chance.
North Carolina avoided disaster with an 18-6 barrage in the overtime period, and sophomore guard Marcus Paige made up for a lackluster game with a huge output in the extra frame. Paige scored 11 of his 17 points in the overtime, and his efforts paired with a huge game from J.P. Tokoto (22 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 blocks) to give UNC the close-fought victory.
For Davidson, the aforementioned Sullivan had (easily) the game of the day, scoring 33 points and knocking down 7 threes, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Still, it was a big-time effort from the Wildcats, and the fact that they were even in the game against the bigger, more talented Tar Heels (in a true road game, no less) is a big testament to their efforts.
The Tar Heels escape with another win, and now, Roy Williams and company sit with an 8-3 record to maintain their top-15 rankings.