Defending The Heels

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- NC State had heard all about Marcus Paige and his exploits against the Wolfpack.

The game-winner last year in PNC Arena... 23 points, nine assists, five rebounds, and four steals this season in Raleigh, and another North Carolina victory. Paige entered averaging 18.8 points and 6.2 assists in five career games against the Wolfpack.

NC State knew that if they were going to go into Chapel Hill and upset No. 15 North Carolina Marcus Paige couldn't have a big night.

"Paige has always been great so that was in the back of our minds to not let him get loose again," said senior Ralston Turner.

The Wolfpack prevented Paige from ever getting comfortable. He attempted just one shot in the first half and finished with seven points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field. He did have seven assists, but State will take that, given his previous offensive explosions.

"It was awful," UNC head coach Roy Williams said of Paige attempting just one shot in the first half. "We had guys with six and seven shots shooting bad percentages and he's 1-for-1. He's got to be more aggressive."

It wasn't all about Paige being more aggressive.

NC State made it a point to stick with him at all times, and it all started with Cat Barber. The sophomore often face-guarded Paige, trying to prevent any open room for shots or driving lanes and he trailed him around screens, forcing Paige into the paint and off the three-point line.

Barber was willing to accept the challenge prior to the game.

"We got tired of him hitting big shots on us," he said. "Two years ago he hit that layup, that hurt us and when he was in our gym this year he hurt us.

"Coach told me to guard him. I know I'm a great defensive player so I said, 'I got him. I'm going to guard him, and I'm going to hold him.' That's what I did."

When Barber went out or Paige was able to get loose, others accounted for him.

"I thought Cat was terrific [on Paige]," said Mark Gottfried. "And I thought our guys had an awareness of where he was a lot better than the first time around."

For Barber, it came down to simply getting the job done, and his effort on the defensive end was pivotal in the Pack's first win in Chapel Hill in over a decade.

"I took it to the heart," he said. "I'm going to come in here and stop you. I'm trying to do whatever I can to stop you from scoring and help my team win."

State great defense didn't end with Paige, as the Wolfpack completely locked up the Tar Heels. NC State shot just 35% from the field, but they held the Tar Heels to 34% shooting.

North Carolina scored just 46 points, the lowest they've ever totaled in a game in the Smith Center.

"Our guys did a great job of knowing who their players were," said Gottfried. "We wanted to guard everybody on the floor just a little bit differently, and we tried to pound that in them the last couple of days. Make sure you know who you're guarding and how we want to play them... back off certain guys.

"For most of the game we defended their players, their personnel. I thought our guys did a great job of that."

"We had a gameplan on how we wanted to defend them," Gottfried added. "I thought our guys were terrific."

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