Thought of the week: Backcourt comfort

The backcourt has found its comfort zone.

Even when North Carolina guard Marcus Paige surpassed 20 points for the first time against Holy Cross, he came across like he was still uneasy no longer being just a facilitator. Paige’s career-high 32 points against Louisville on Sunday showed he has matured and fully embraced his new role as a scorer.

When freshman Nate Britt struggled against Holy Cross and Belmont -- replaced by Luke Davis for key stretches in the second half of both games -- his confidence seemed to be crumbling.

That’s no longer the case after his career-high nine points and five assists against the Cardinals. Britt was aggressive from the start and this time he stayed in the game for the majority of the second half.

“This is great momentum for us,” Britt said. “Our team knows how good we are. That’s good for us going into the rest of these games.”

The two people least surprised by the performances of Paige and Britt against Louisville just happened to be Paige and Britt. They’ve both known what the other is capable of dating to their early days on the AAU circuit.

“I’ve known Marcus since a long time ago, I know he doesn’t remember but I played him when he was like 9 years old and he played with the Iowa Stars,” Britt said. “Marcus has always been a great shooter. I knew all along he’s had that scoring ability.”

Paige said he did remember playing against Britt and DC Assault.

“We didn’t really know each other, but we knew of each other,” Paige said. “It’s kind of cool all of a sudden years down the road we’re like brothers on the same team.”

Paige is only four months older than Britt, but in terms of college basketball experience being a sophomore makes him the wise older brother in this backcourt.

That’s why Britt’s breakout performance against the Cardinals can be credited partially to Paige, who has been steadily helping the freshman adjust to a starting role. Having been in the same position last year, Paige has gone out of his way to give pointers and be a sounding board for Britt.

More than anything else he has preached patience to Britt and told him his time would come.

“I told Nate before the game that we needed him to come up big because I knew how important guard play was against Louisville,” Paige said. “In the second half, he was phenomenal getting into the lane, creating opportunities for others, taking care of the ball, especially against two of the best guards in the country. I’m so proud of him.”

Britt was confident all along that Paige would grow into his role as shooting guard. Paige followed a career-high 26 points in Saturday’s win over Richmond with another personal best against the Cardinals on Sunday.

“Right now he’s comfortable,” Britt said. “When he’s comfortable he can play with the best of them and that’s what he’s doing.”