The No. 19 Tar Heels stifled the Tribe from 3-point range, keying their 86-64 victory on Tuesday night at the Smith Center.
William & Mary made just 7 of 27 3-point attempts after entering the game among the nation’s top 30 teams in 3-pointers per game (8.4) and 3-point shooting percentage (.402). UNC (10-3) shot 8 of 20 from 3-point range, beating the Tribe at their own game.
“That was a huge surprise,” UNC guard Marcus Paige said with a laugh. “For us to win that specific statistical category, if you didn’t show me the score, I would already know that that’s a big plus for us because that’s not a strength of ours and it’s a huge strength of theirs.”
William & Mary (6-5) became the latest team to misfire from long range against the Tar Heels, who have limited opponents to the nation’s third lowest 3-point percentage (.251) for the season.
The Tribe shot 38 percent from the field overall, becoming the 12th of UNC’s 13 opponents to shoot below 39 percent.
“We got beat by a superior team,” said William & Mary coach Tony Shaver, a former UNC player. “There’s no question about that.”
UNC extended its defensive pressure far away from the basket to stifle William & Mary’s long-range shooting. The aggressiveness out front led to some backdoor layups, a couple of which the Tribe missed, but the Tar Heels accomplished their goal of limiting open 3-point shots.
Paige helped set the tone with his early work against Marcus Thornton, the Colonial Athletic Association preseason player of the year.
Thornton scored 17 points, but he made just 4 of 14 shots from the floor and 2 of 8 3-point attempts.
Thornton went the first four minutes without a shot attempt before misfiring on a forced 3-pointer off the dribble. He finished the first half with nine points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field.
“I was excited to play against someone of that caliber,” Paige said. “It’s always fun playing against the better guards on your schedule. You always kind of circle the games. I didn’t know about this one until we started the scouting report, but it was exciting and fun to go against a guy who is as skilled as he is.
“He knocked down a couple of 3s in the first half, but I think we did a good job of making a lot of his stuff tonight challenged or difficult.”
UNC raced out to a 20-4 lead after seven minutes as the Tribe opened the game 2 of 9 from the floor with six turnovers.
The Tribe went more than 10 minutes before they hit their first 3-pointer. By that point, the Tar Heels were firmly in control of the game with a 28-13 lead.
Despite a sluggish start to the second half on both ends of the court, UNC never led by fewer than nine points the rest of the way.
“I think you’ve got to credit our defense and our attention to detail -- for most of the game,” Paige said. “There were still some slip-ups, but most of the game we did a good job.”
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