With his status for the upcoming season (meaning how many games, if any, will he miss) yet to be announced by the powers that be at North Carolina, junior guard P.J. Hairston still has a speeding ticket to deal with. Due to appear in court on Friday, Hairston was not in attendance and his appearance was rescheduled for October 11 by Magistrate Steven R. Storch.
After his second citation this offseason for speeding, Hairston was suspended indefinitely by the UNC athletic department. The question now is how long will the suspension last, and will North Carolina’s early season schedule impact that decision?
The toughest of the Tar Heels’ first four games will likely be their November 17 home game against Belmont, which is coming off of a 26-7 campaign and an NCAA tournament appearance. In North Carolina’s fifth game there’s a chance they could play defending national champion Louisville in an in-season tournament to be played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. There are also non-conference games against Michigan State (December 4) and Kentucky (December 18) before the Heels begin ACC play in January.
Hairston returns as the team’s leading scorer from a season ago, as he averaged 14.6 points per game. And with Reggie Bullock (13.9 ppg) now in the NBA, not having the services of Hairston could lead to some issues on the offensive end of the floor despite the other talented options at Roy Williams’ disposal.
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)