A rejuvenated and fit Marcus Paige is a welcome sight for the Tar Heels. The sophomore point guard says the thumb and thigh are going to be just fine for this weekend’s play in San Antonio.

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“I’m good. My thumb’s fine. This week, I’m practicing with nothing on it. It’s feeling good. The thigh’s getting better. I have been working on it a lot. […] It will be fine come Friday. Each day it’s getting a little better and better. It helps when I keep running up and down in practice,” Paige says.

One area of concern for Carolina is in the rebounding department. Once a strength of the team, the Tar Heels have been struggling to seize control of the boards lately, most notably in the defeats at the hands of the Panthers and Blue Devils.

This fact hasn’t been lost on Paige. He says the team has to maintain better focus and ‘want-to’ to reassert a rebounding advantage.

“I guess just a lack of attention to detail. For a while, we were like a top ten rebounding team. We were rebounding really well and we had a good rebounding margin. Obviously, that slipped. We just got to get back to understanding that you have to box out every possession. We can’t just rely on size and length,” Paige says.

The clean slate aspect of the NCAA Tournament is attractive to Paige. He says now it doesn’t matter what’s happened leading in. He says the team is firmly focused on the Providence Friars.

“The only thing on our mind right now is Providence – not what we’ve done in the past, not the 12-game win streak, not the bad home losses, or the great road wins we’ve had. It’s all on Providence and what we can do to be best prepared for them,” Paige says.

Tar Heel teamwork (Todd Melet)

Tar Heel teamwork (Todd Melet)

What separates the winners from the losers in March? Paige says it’s all mental.

“The mental part of the game right now is a big part. Everyone’s tired and dinged up. It’s how well you prepare and how well you can execute your mental game plan is what really separates teams at this point,” Paige says.

The Tar Heels will see if they have the right stuff to survive and advance Friday night at 7:20 p.m. in San Antonio.