Jahlil Okafor, West team outlast East in McDonald’s All-America Game

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Wednesday night in Chicago many of the nation’s best incoming freshmen were on display, playing in the 37th edition of the McDonald’s All-American Game. The East and West teams put forth a tight affair throughout the night, with a Jahlil Okafor dunk late giving the West team the lead for good in its 105-102 victory.

Okafor, who’s headed to Duke next season, finished the game with 17 points and seven rebounds and earned West MVP honors in the process. The East MVP was North Carolina signee Justin Jackson, with the slender wing accounting for 23 points and five rebounds.

Assisting Okafor leading the West were SMU signee Emmanuel Mudiay, who finished the game with 15 points and six assists, and UNLV verbal commitment Rashad Vaughn (14 points, five rebounds). Mudiay, given his skill level and versatility, could very well be the difference-maker for a program that just missed out on its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993. Kelly Oubre, who’s headed to Kansas, added 11 points for the West.

Joining Jackson in double figures for the East team were Indiana signee James Blackmon Jr. (13 points) and Ohio State signee D’Angelo Russell (11). Kansas signee Cliff Alexander finished with nine points and ten rebounds, and Duke signee Tyus Jones added seven points and ten assists.

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 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)