CHAPEL HILL– The No. 14 North Carolina Tar Heel men’s basketball team will take on the 9-1 Texas Longhorns Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Smith Center. UNC will be hoping to improve to 8-2 on the year with a victory.
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Sophomore guard Marcus Paige was named ACC Player of the Week coming off his 21-point second half performance against Kentucky on Saturday.
But Head Coach Roy Williams prefers to call Paige the ‘little rascal’ or ‘little nut.’ He says Paige’s toughness really sets him apart, and it showed against the Wildcats.
“His toughness and the mental side of his game are just off the charts. Last year, you heard me say about him many times, he’s a tough little nut, and he really is,” Coach Williams says.
How does Coach Williams keep the Tar Heels from letting up following big wins like the one on Saturday? He says in this case, he only needed to remind his players of last year’s loss at the hands of the Longhorns.
“I think just reminding them that we won a basketball game. We didn’t win any rings or anything like that. Our kids are pretty sharp. They understand that Texas beat us by eight million points down there last year. We mentioned that once,” Coach Williams says.
Texas Head Coach Rick Barnes says he’s not surprised at all by the trio of top-ten wins Carolina has recorded this season, and a lot of that has to do with the respect he has for the man at the helm.
“I’m not surprised. Roy is one of the best coaches ever. He’s done a great job, and he’s got players,” Coach Barnes says.
Texas has yet to face an opponent of the caliber and talent of the Tar Heels this season. Coach Barnes says he knows his young players are excited to tip it off in Chapel Hill, and he thinks they’ll be up to the challenge.
“These guys have worked hard, and we’ve been in some tough battles. I think every one of them is tough with a young group of guys. I would say that they’ve been focused and come to play. We’ve learned a lot, and we’ve got a lot more to learn. As a group, I think they’ll be excited about playing in Chapel Hill,” Coach Barnes says.
Coach Williams says the Tar Heels will have to be great on the boards Wednesday night. One of the calling cards for Texas is their ability to dominate in the rebounding department, ranking eleventh nationally.
“They’re a great rebounding team. Their rebounding margin is probably plus eight or nine right now. They do guard you. They’ve always had good balance – guys who can shoot it outside from the three-point line and then big guys who can score,” Coach Williams says.
The Tar Heels-Longhorns game will be aired on 97.9 FM, WCHL and broadcast nationwide on ESPN2.