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NORTH CAROLINA BASKETBALL....LOOKING FOR OPTIONS

January 17, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



UNC PRESS RELEASE

CHAPEL HILL -- After watching Marcus Paige manage only eight points in the loss at Wake Forest earlier this month, North Carolina coach Roy Williams approached his leading scorer with concern. Was he playing the sophomore too many minutes, he asked? Was the guard's stamina giving out? Was it just a bad game?

"He said 'No, Coach, I just had a terrible game,'' Williams said. "He's just so accountable. ... And I think it's just—he needs some help."

Over UNC's last three games—losses to the Demon Deacons, Miami and Syracuse—Paige is averaging 11 points and shooting only 27.9 percent. The team, as a whole, is shooting 36.1 percent and averaging just over 56 points. And only twice have players not named "Paige" or "James Michael McAdoo" (14.4 ppg) scored in double figures (J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson each recorded 12 points at Wake).

Paige's minutes could be a factor; he's the only Tar Heel averaging more than 35 game. So could his increased duties, as he's been playing more at point guard since senior shooting guard Leslie McDonald's reinstatement.

But with star wing Reggie Bullock's early jump to the NBA during the offseason and suspended guard P.J. Hairston now playing in the NBDL, a huge pressure point for Paige is the fact that there aren't enough teammates taking the scoring pressure off.

 "Harrison [Barnes] was a lot better when Reggie was making shots; Reggie was a lot better when P.J. was making shots,'' Williams said. "Tyler [Zeller] was a lot better when John Henson was doing things. Tyler Hansbrough was a lot better when Ty Lawson and Danny Green and Wayne Ellington were making shots. So we do need to help him; other guys have got to step up.

"I'm concerned about it; you're darn right. It's the biggest concern that I have. But it's something we should be able to fight."

After all, several UNC players have shown the potential to be better scoring options, but UNC needs them to be more persistent - and consistent—when it comes to points:

• In the seven games since his return, McDonald has averaged 9.7 points and made 12 3-point shots. But he's only 3-for-17 on 3-pointers in ACC play. Besides Paige, he's the Tar Heels' best outside threat, but he needs to connect to help keep defenses on their toes.

• After a fast-scoring start and some raucous yells-after-dunk, sophomore forward Brice Johnsonhas been quiet of late, recording double digit points only twice in his last seven games. He's still the Tar Heels' third-leading scorer at 10.6 points per game, but UNC needs him to play more like he did in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off (where he was a member of the ACC-Tournament team) than he is in ACC games (7.3 ppg).

• Who doesn't hold their breath when Tokoto, a sophomore, goes up for a dunk? The high-flying wing still is working on his outside game, but outings such as his 15-point performance against Kentucky and double-double at Michigan State were big reasons why the Tar Heels were able to upset the big names. Now from Tokoto, UNC needs more big games.

After all, Williams knows what he can expect from Paige and McAdoo most nights. But the third and fourth options, at this point, are "anybody that makes it."

"We don't say 'You've got to make shots' or 'You've got to make shots' or 'You've got to make shots'" Williams said. "And it's not just outside shots; we've just got to get some people to put the ball in the basket a little bit more. The defense can't be aimed just at Marcus."


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