On Thursday afternoon, Tom Izzo provided yet another example of why he is one of the most popular coaches in the college ranks.
Izzo reinstated senior big man Derrick Nix after Nix pleaded guilty to a charge of impaired driving stemming from an arrest in which he was caught with weed in his car. Well, it wasn’t his car, actually. The police report said that he was driving a 2011 Dodge Charger, a car that very few college students are going to be able to afford.
Obviously, the rumors started: Why was Nix driving a 2011 Charger? Who did he get it from? Is this how Izzo is able to land players?
But as it turns out, the car wasn’t a 2011 Charger, it was a 2007 Charger. And it didn’t belong to a booster or a rogue car dealership, it belonged to his brother’s girlfriend. And, as you might expect Izzo had some pointed words for those critics.
“It gave a bunch of people at other universities a chance to throw missiles,” Izzo said. “And you know what? They threw ‘em, but we’re still standing.
“To me, that is nothing. It’s not pertinent to this story in any way, shape or form. And if somebody wants to make it that under the circumstance I think they want to make it at, now we got a fistfight.”
Yes, Tom Izzo just challenged “a bunch of people at other universities” to a fistfight while standing up for a player that was being reinstated to the team after nearly getting the boot for a possession arrest.
Who wouldn’t want to play for a guy will to do that?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)