North Carolina wins at Georgia Tech 78-65
Due to a historic snow/ice storm Tuesday, it took a while for Marcus Paige and his North Carolina teammates to make it to their Atlanta hotel, and he was slow to arrive for the Tar Heels' 78-65 win over Georgia Tech as well.
He scored all but two of his 19 points in the second half Wednesday, when the Tar Heels turned a one-point halftime lead into a walk-away win.
The game was played despite Atlanta being hit Tuesday by a storm that grid-locked much of the region through Wednesday.
An ESPN2 telecast was cancelled because of the inability of the production crew to reach the site, and an NBA game between the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks was postponed in Philips Arena, just over a mile from McCamish Pavilion.
The game was played, though, because ACC policy dictates that the only reason a game should be postponed or cancelled is if the conditions affect the safety of the teams or game officials involved.
The Tar Heels arrived in Atlanta late Tuesday, and although they had to take a mass transit train from the airport to near their hotel, they and three game officials were able to get to McCamish.
UNC led just 26-25 after a first half in which the Heels shot just 31 percent. In the second half, Paige and his teammates shot 67 percent, and doubled their first-half point production on 15 fewer shots.
North Carolina players and coaches arrived at their hotel around 1 a.m. Wednesday or about four hours late.
"It was crazy (traveling to Atlanta)," Paige said." The plane ride was bumpy . . . We realize that we were more fortunate than the people that were stuck out on the highways for 20 hours or so."
Georgia Tech (11-10, 2-6) never really had North Carolina (13-7, 3-4) on the ropes in the first half, but the injury-ravaged hosts were competitive.
Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 17 points for the Yellow Jackets, and center Daniel Miller added 12 with five blocks.
Trae Golden scored just six of his game-high 21 points before intermission, but the Jackets limited UNC to 31 percent shooting (12-for-39) over the first 20 minutes.
Golden scored the Jackets' final five points and Tech closed with a 10-2 run to pull within a point of the Heels.
"The first half was probably the worst that the combination of Marcus, Leslie (McDonald) and J.P. (Tokoto) have played," said UNC coach Roy Williams.
Foul trouble looked like it might become an issue for the Tar Heels early in the second half as starting forwards Tokoto and James Michael McAdoo picked up their fourth fouls, with 16:37 and 15:49 left respectively.
North Carolina led 36-31 as McAdoo departed, but after Tech quickly cut the margin to two on a Golden 3-pointer with 15:17 left, the Heels went about re-building a comfortable lead.
Paige led the way.
He countered with one of his three 3-pointers 19 seconds later, and scored 11 of the Heels' next 22 points and gave them a 58-48 lead on another trey with 4:50 to go.
"I think we gave Paige a couple open looks, and once you do that with a good player he gets him going so he got in a rhythm," Golden said.
The Tar Heels scored 52 second-half points on 16-for-24 shooting, including 4 for 6 on 3-pointers, and they made 16 of 20 free throws.
McAdoo added 17 points in just 18 minutes before fouling out, and McDonald had 15.
Paige, who added five rebounds, made the Heels go.
"He had seven assists and zero turnovers. When he plays well, they're an elite-level team," Georgia Tech's coach Brian Gregory said. "I think it's probably well chronicled, but when Marcus Paige plays at that level, they're a Final Four caliber team."