College Basketball

UNC’s Marcus Paige blames himself for toughness problem

Marcus Paige’s answers were shorter after North Carolina’s 60-55 loss to Iowa on Wednesday night, his insights less detailed than they normally are. Except those directed at himself, at least.

Paige has become a favorite among the reporters who cover the Tar Heels because of his candidness and his ability to explain, in detail, just about anything that happens during a game. He often sounds like a television analyst, which isn’t coincidental given that’s a path he’d like to pursue one day.

But Paige was quieter on Wednesday, after he made just four of his 16 shots against Iowa. And he sounded angry, almost a little defiant. And he saved his strongest commentary for what he perceives to be his own failure.

Paige was asked about toughness – the word of the day after UNC coach Roy Williams questioned it, again, after the Tar Heels’ loss. Williams did the same a week ago in the Bahamas, where UNC lacked toughness in a defeat against Butler.

On Wednesday, after the Iowa loss, Paige was asked, given his status as the leader of the team, how he could address the Tar Heels’ apparent toughness problem.

“It all starts with me,” he said. “I’m the guy that people have been paying attention to, that everybody’s been writing about, talking about. And I haven’t been playing up to my standards. I’m shooting the ball – I was 25 percent tonight, I’ve been shooting the ball like I did my freshman year. And it starts with me.

“Off the court, on the court. In practice. In film sessions. I'm the guy that needs to get these guys going and right now I'm not doing a good enough job. If I'm going to be a leading vote-getter on the preseason All-American team, if I'm going to be the preseason ACC Player of the Year, I need to start playing like it, and it affects my teammates as well.

“So I need to do better, and hopefully that will be contagious but it definitely starts with me.”

Against Iowa, Paige missed a 3-pointer with five seconds to play that would have tied the game. As he said, though, UNC probably shouldn’t have been in that position – and wouldn’t have, if not for several breakdowns in the final minutes.

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