After a horrendous start to Tuesday night’s contest with the Florida State Seminoles, Marcus Paige and the North Carolina Tar Heels were able to bounce back in an 81-75 victory.
From the opening tip, it was “uh-oh” time for UNC on the road in Tallahassee, and the scoreboard told a grim tale. The Seminoles sprinted to leads of 9-0 and 21-6, putting the Heels in a significant hole, and FSU clamped down on UNC’s top targets, holding James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige in check for the duration of the first half. However, the Heels awakened in short order, and on the strength of the three ball, they were able to zoom to the lead.
Roy Williams’ club was able to battle back within 3 by the halftime break, and after a back-and-forth exchange in the early stages of the second half, the Heels were able to sprint to a 70-62 lead on the strength of Marcus Paige. Paige stopped an 0-for-8 start by UNC from beyond the arc with three consecutive threes during the run, and with that, he keyed the biggest part of a night that included 20 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals.
Paige was the best player on the court in the second half, but prior to that, it was an unlikely source keeping the Heels within striking distance. Freshman forward Kennedy Meeks had, by far, the best night of his collegiate career, scoring a career-best 23 points on 11 of 12 shooting, and almost singlehandedly pulsing the UNC offense at times. Reserve forward Brice Johnson also got into the act with a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double for the Heels, and that two-headed monster was able to hold the tide until Paige went off in the second half.
On the FSU side, this is a devastating loss, both because it was at home and because of the large lead in the early going. With the defeat, the ‘Noles slip to 6-8 in ACC play, and despite a big-time defensive effort early, they allowed 48 second half points while struggling to only 5 assists for the game on the offensive end. Yikes.
UNC continues to be one of the country’s most “Jekyll-and-Hyde” teams, but in the second half on Tuesday, they flashed their considerable upside.