A relatively boring first half of basketball turned into the Marcus Paige and T.J. Warren show down the stretch.
Warren scored 26 of his 36 points after halftime, but he was bested by Paige, who netted 29 of his 33 points after the break, including a layup with 0.9 seconds left in overtime as the No. 19 Tar Heels knocked off the Wolfpack, 85-84, on Tuesday night.
Paige has developed a pretty impressive reputation for these kinds of late-game exploits, having overcome slow first halves to make wining play after winning play in wins over Duke and Florida State in the past two weeks. He went through a lull at the start of ACC play where he was not shooting the ball well, but ever since Roy Williams slid Nate Britt to the bench and started using Paige as his primary ball-handler, the Heels have been winning.
Saturday was their tenth in a row. Paige is averaging 18.9 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 46.0% from three during that stretch.
Before I move on to N.C. State, it’s worth noting that J.P. Tokoto was tremendous for UNC. He had 18 points, 11 boards and five assists, which helped make up for the fact that Leslie McDonald and James Michael McAdoo were a combined 3-for-16.
This loss is a heartbreaker for the Wolfpack, as it all but seals up their trip to the NIT. Mark Gottfried’s club was in a tough spot as it was, likely needing to win out in order to have a shot at stealing an at-large bid, but with the number of bubble teams that seem averse to winning games, picking up a win over North Carolina would have gotten them right back into the conversation.
It’s a shame as well, because the nation finally got a prolonged look at just how good T.J. Warren can be when he gets hot. Those 36 points came in a game where he made just a single three-pointer. He’s not a great defender and he doesn’t create much offense for anyone else, but the kid can flat out get buckets.
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 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?