UNLV v North Carolina

One-on-one with Marcus Paige: how little things hurt the Heels

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Football is a game of inches. The hashmarks and yard markers make that pretty obvious.

The case can also be made for basketball as a game of inches, though the distinction is more subtle. The Virginia Cavaliers toughed out a 61-52 home win last night — their first ever over the Tar Heels in John Paul Jones Arena. In a hard-fought game, the difference often came down to position: where on the floor a screen was set, and how possession of that extra inch or two of space changed the flow of the game.

After the game, I spoke with UNC’s  freshman starting point guard Marcus Paige (2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers) about the devil in the details of his first ACC road test.

[UVA point guard] Jontel Evans had a big second half. How did his experience work in his favor?

He just kept getting in the paint. He was using screens, and they had shooters setting the screens, so it was difficult for our big guys to help out a lot, and if they did, they were kicking to the corner and shooting threes. He did a good job of attacking the paint.

Defensively, how did they frustrate what you guys were trying to do?

They didn’t let screens affect them. They were getting through them. They didn’t have to rely on their help very often. When you do that, especially with the way they pack in their defense and take away driving lanes, it makes it a little tougher to get good shots. And that’s what they’re known for, they make it tough to score. We should have executed a bit more sharply.

This being the first time that you’ve seen them, what did you learn about how to attack this kind of team?

You’ve just got to set better screens. To screen against a team that has great pressure, you have to make hard, sharp cuts. We didn’t do a very good job of that, and as a result, our offense got pushed back and we didn’t get good shots.

(On defense) our pressure kind of let up. We didn’t convert a lot of those turnovers – a lot of the time we just turned it right back over. We needed to pressure them a little more in the second half. It’s easy to say that now.

Over the next few weeks, will you guys be able to find that rhythm you need?

I think we can. We do a great job in practice, we just need to bring that over to the games, especially games on the road. Execution just needs to be better; focus and intensity.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?