Paige has become Mr. Second Half

Just three weeks ago, it seemed North Carolina sophomore guard Marcus Paige showed a tendency to taper off his scoring in the second half of games.

The Boston College game was the extreme example in that he only had one field goal attempt after halftime. Against the Eagles, he scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half. He had a similar outing recently against NC State with 11 of his 15 before halftime.

But it seems Paige has now overcompensated. In three of the last four games, with NC State being the exception, Paige has saved his scoring outbursts for the second half.

Against Clemson, it was 13 of his 15 points.

Against Georgia Tech, it was 17 of his 19 points.

Against Maryland, it was 18 of his 25 points.

Going back to the start of ACC play, Paige also had 14 of his 17 points in the second half against Syracuse. UNC coach Roy Williams was asked after Tuesday’s win over the Terrapins if there was a particular reason why he’s gotten prolific scoring out of Paige after halftime. Williams had no explanation.

“We also have some stats that show sometimes he’s great in the first half and slows down in the second half,” Williams said. “I asked him two times if he needed a break, and I didn’t take him out of the game in the second half. There were a lot of timeouts, so that was good. But, no, I can’t explain it, except that he’s a really tough competitor.”

Paige didn’t think there was a particular reason for his scoring pattern either. He said it just seemed different because he started conference play struggling with his shot and now he’s worked out of his shooting slump. Against Maryland in particular, he said getting to the foul line got him in a rhythm.

“I knocked down shots that I haven’t been making in ACC play,” Paige said. “So I’m just going to stay aggressive and keep attacking. I always tend to attack a little more in the second half, but I just wanted to stay aggressive.”

Oddly enough, it’s not the number of shots Paige takes that makes the Heels go offensively. It’s the quality of his shots. In their seven losses, he averages 14 field goal attempts per game. During their 15 wins, he’s taking just 11 per game. The difference is Paige is shooting around 47 percent from the field in the wins, while that drops to just 33 percent in their losses.