Thought of the week: Aggressive Paige

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
11:00
AM ET
Marcus Paige needs to change his mindset in the second half.

Paige still thinks like a pass-first point guard. It’s understandable considering that’s what he was recruited to play. But it's also the wrong way to approach things this season. He is the best and most consistent scoring threat on this team, and the Heels need him to be a scorer.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Paige
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesTar Heels point guard Marcus Paige has been too passive in the second half of games this season, leading to scoring struggles for UNC.
Paige leads the Tar Heels in scoring this season at 17.2 points per game, but in conference games only, he’s second to James Michael McAdoo's 14.3 average with just 13.5 points per game.

“Part of their struggles have probably been because [Paige] hasn’t played as well as he had been, in particular against (Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky),” Boston College coach Steve Donahue said. “He’s a good basketball player that has to do a lot. He’s asked to run a team and score -- that’s difficult, especially for a young kid.”

Paige has had a tendency all season to seek a balance between making plays and distributing to others. That dilemma was made even more difficult when Leslie McDonald returned to the lineup after missing the first nine games. Instead of playing off the ball and knowing he has to score, Paige has gone back to playing most of his time at point guard.

Paige scored 21 points in North Carolina’s win over Boston College on Saturday. But he only had one field-goal attempt in the second half -- and that didn’t occur until 6:14 remained in the game. Most games that would be a recipe for disaster.

“I did get a little passive in the second half. I tend to do that sometimes when I’m playing point guard,” Paige said. “I haven’t had a lot of chances to be the primary point guard the entire time this year. It’s an adjustment I have to make. I have to remind myself to stay aggressive.”

Paige said his teammates were scoring so it was OK that he didn’t look for his shot.

It’s kind of foolish to argue with 46 points -- that’s what the Tar Heels scored in the second half against Boston College. Carolina has only scored more than 46 points in a half five times this season.

But the Heels won’t win many games with their leading scorer not hunting for his own shot, especially down the stretch of close games.

“We’ve got to get him to be a little more offensive-minded in the second half,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.

Paige did show that aggression in the second half of the Syracuse loss. He went 6-of-11 from the floor and scored 14 of Carolina’s 23 second-half points. The problem was that the Heels were already down double digits before he decided to take over.

That can’t continue to happen. Paige’s aggression must be on display early and often for the Heels to have a chance to win.

C.L. Brown | email

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