Vin Parise’s 30-second timeout: Five questions with Kevin Willard

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Vin Parise of College Basketball Talk caught up with Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard, who is 1-0 in league after the start of Big East play:

CBT: Let’s start off first with your 81-80 double OT win at Providence on New Year’s Eve.

Willard: Going in I was hoping we could try and steal one if everyone picked up the slack with Eugene Teague being out for us.  I was worried about rebounding and how we were going to match up; but we made the right plays down the stretch.  I’m really proud of how our guys fought up there on the road.

CBT: 2013 as a whole was filled with several injuries for your program. How challenging has it been to deal with that aspect?

Willard: Last year I could have handled it much better.  It was very frustrating times and I let myself get too frustrated.  This year I feel I’ve done a better job handling it personally, and so have the players.  The games we’ve lost we’ve had multiple guys out – but we’re still a deeper team than we were last season.  But you can’t spend time focusing on the things you can’t control.  We have to keep the mindset we had up at Providence the other day.

CBT: Before we move past the injuries topic, what is the latest update on Eugene Teague?

Willard: We honestly don’t have a timeline right now for Eugene.  We’re following the orders of the doctors and going through the proper concussion protocol.  He has been feeling okay and is questionable for our next Big East game.

CBT: Speaking of the Big East, what are your thoughts on this conference as we now know it?

Willard: I think from top to bottom our league is going to be brutal to go through during conference play.  I feel Villanova is a step above the pack right now, but even they needed OT to win at Butler who was picked 10th.  Road wins are going to be a premium this season for sure. And the new teams that were added are going to be very tough road trips because of their home court atmosphere.

CBT: How about your matchup tomorrow at home vs Creighton?

Willard:  Creighton is a very misleading team right now because everyone talks about their offense – and don’t get me wrong, they’re terrific offensively; but not enough people talk about their defense.  For a team that puts up the numbers they do, their team defense is really impressive.  And the other day was no different when they held Marquette to 49 points.  I’m as concerned about us scoring against them, as I am about us defending them.  It should be a great game.

Follow Vin on Twitter:  @VinParise

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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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…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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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)