Tokoto, Paige Thrive As Tar Heels Survive Davidson

By Gregory Philson
J.P. Tokoto
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

It was a week of ups-and-downs for the North Carolina Tar Heels after getting senior guard Leslie McDonald back, finding out junior forward P.J. Hairston will not return and losing to Texas at home because of terrible free-throw shooting.

The Tar Heels struggled for almost the entire game against Davidson and actually were forced into overtime, but Marcus Paige came through when it mattered most and UNC walked away with a hard-fought 97-85 overtime victory at home Saturday.

Paige showed exactly why he is an NCAA National Player of the Year candidate as he scored 11 of his 17 points in the extra session. Paige hit all eight of his free throws for the game and took control in overtime. He also added five assists and six rebounds. Paige’s effort would not have happened without the excellent play of J.P. Tokoto.

Tokoto shot 8-of-12 from the field, scored 22 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had five steals. This was Tokoto’s best game of his career and gave Carolina hope that a second star is ready to help Paige on the court. Tokoto’s best trait is his athleticism. He can dominate any team because he can score inside with layups and powerful dunks and now has enough confidence to hit open three-pointers. Carolina should have beaten Davidson in regulation, but Tokoto’s career-day is a sign of hope that UNC can compete if Paige is not on game. James Michael McAdoo played his third straight excellent game. He scored 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting and was an absolute beast on defense. McAdoo is finally using his skills on both ends of the court.

UNC struggled against Davidson because the Wildcats shot 50 percent from the field for nearly most of game and nearly matched the Heels on the boards before they got worn down. Davidson gave everything it had, but in the end, UNC’s talent was just too much.

This kind of game is not surprising for Carolina fans because of the way the Heels have played against unranked teams this season. The Heels start slow against these teams and do not explode offensively for whatever reason. Luckily, North Carolina actually picked up this game. The Tar Heels have Northern Kentucky and UNC-Wilmington remaining as non-conference opponents before ACC  play opens up against Wake Forest on January, 5.

The upcoming schedule should allow the Tar Heels time to gel with the roster they will have from here on out. This team is as talented as any in the conference, but if a consistent effort is not given every game, North Carolina could be a middle-of-the-pack ACC team.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC college basketball writer at Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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