In the wake of some critical comments regarding our starting backcourt left by chattering Dukies after my last post, I feel an obligation to point out that Saturday's performance against Virginia Tech completely validated three key points made in that post.
1. It's never been clearer how much we need PJ (especially coming off the bench). Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald combined to shoot 4-for-20 from the field and 1-for-13 from three yesterday, including a 1-for-7, 0-for-5 showing from that game's sixth man. Probably could have used a boost from a guy who's gone 12-for-18 from deep in his last three games.
2. Dexter Strickland's defensive value is not debatable. Roy rotated four guys on Erick Green throughout the game (Strickland, McDonald, Paige, and Bullock), but Strickland assumed the lion's share of the burden. By any measure, holding the nation's leading scorer to 16 points (his lowest output of the year) on 7-of-21 shooting, including a 19-minute scoreless stretch and zero free throw attempts, is a very good defensive day.
3. Marcus Paige is our guy. Paige tallied 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists to 2 turnovers, 50% shooting from 2-point range, 40% from three, and 75% from the line, including a huge three in overtime, and huge baseline jumper in overtime, and a huge free throw in overtime. He is going to be good.
I find it fitting that this combined performance comes the day after criticisms were levied regarding Strickland's "intangibles of effort and tenacity" and Paige's "not playing well against ACC competition."
The fact that we were forced into overtime at home against the third-worst team in the league is certainly anxiety-producing. But that has absolutely nothing to do with Paige or Strickland and everything to do with our two best shooters going 1-for-13 from three against a zone and the fact that we have absolutely no five-man (I've never been more appreciative of Serge Zwikker.) And for all the concern, worry, and fret Heels fans are supposed to be feeling these days, we are one game behind the No. 5 team in the nation in conference play.
All of that said, I fully acknowledge the jinx I have just laid here, and will graciously accept the mockery I've exposed myself to from those same chattering Dukies when Paige goes 0-for-10 with 6 turnovers this Tuesday against Wake.