One Week After Losing to Belmont, Carolina Stuns Louisville Behind Paige's 32 | Zagsblog
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Friday / August 19.
  • One Week After Losing to Belmont, Carolina Stuns Louisville Behind Paige’s 32

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    Marcus Paige and his North Carolina teammates spent three and a half hours watching game tape of their loss to Belmont a week ago.

    Apparently it paid off.

    Paige scored a combined 58 points in two games in Connecticut, including a career-high 32 on Sunday as North Carolina stunned defending NCAA champion and No. 3 Louisville, 93-84, to win the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

    “We watched the entire [Belmont] tape,” Paige told ESPN’s Andy Katz.

    “You can talk about free throws, you can talk about turnovers , but it was really effort. When we play hard and we play together like we did tonight, we can compete with any team in the country.”

    Paige’s new career-high offset Russ Smith’s 36 points on the other side, and came one day after Paige notched his previous career-best of 26 in an 82-72 win over Richmond. Against Carolina, Paige went 9-of-13-from the field, including 3-of-6 from the arc, and a perfect 11-for-11 from the stripe.

    “Just having confidence in myself,” Paige said on ESPN. “The way our lineup is set up, someone has to be aggressive and we work really hard. We understand that you gotta play hard every night, especially against a great team like Louisville. So I just tried to be aggressive and provide my team some offense.”

    The loss snapped a 21-game winning streak for Rick Pitino’s club, who hadn’t lost since Feb. 10 in a five-overtime thriller against Notre Dame when both schools were still in the Big East.

    Pitino seemed to look into the future on Saturday after his team struggled to beat Fairfield, 71-57.

    “If we play this way, it won’t even be a game,” he said in advance of the Carolina game.

    Playing without P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, Carolina outscored Louisville 49-40 in the second half and got big games from both Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, who finished with 13 points apiece. Meeks added 11 rebounds.

    “We played the best we played all year long,” Carolina coach Roy Williams said on ESPN. “Marcus was unbelievable. We got a good lift from our bench. Kennedy Meeks was terrible for us yesterday and he was a good player for us today.

    “It was a heck of a performance, but it was by far the best we played. And I like it because it tells these kids we can be pretty doggone good.”

    It may be too early to write North Carolina out of the national conversation after a performance like that — sans Hairston and McDonald.

    Beginning in December they play at UAB and at No. 1 Michigan State — which won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic over Oklahoma Saturday night in Brooklyn— before hosting No. 4 Kentucky and Texas later in the month.

    “It tells us that we can be pretty doggone good,” Williams said. “But we gotta play. Reputation means nothing, you gotta play on game day.”

    Photo: North Carolina Athletics



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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.