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Off the cuff: In a game like this one, and with an up-and-down team like the Tar Heels, you quickly forget that the opponent is 4-7 with a 30-plus point loss to Clemson.

Davidson, now 4-8, played well enough to win and the Wildcats would have won if the Tar Heels hadn't improved a bit from the free throw line.

There were a lot of strange things about this game. The Tar Heels were the taller team yet Brice Johnson, one of the tallest Heels, had his worst game of the season, scoring just two points before fouling out in regulation.

The rotation was even strange in this one. Especially with big-man Joel James sidelined for a couple of weeks, you'd think big men Isiah Hicks and Desmond Hubert would see more time. Hicks played eight minutes, as he usually does, while Hubert played just two minutes.

On the other hand, Jackson Simmons, who usually plays seven minutes played 14. Guard Luke Davis, who normally plays 10 minutes a game, saw only four minutes of action.

Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, the most consistent scorers on the team, failed to score at all until midway through the second half.

Davidson's Brian Sullivan, who came into the game hitting only five of 28 three pointers, launched in seven of 14.

Just a lot of strange things in this one, including some bad calls or no calls by the officials. At least twice the refs awarded the ball to the wrong team when it went out of bounds. A big three by Sullivan, which gave Davidson a lead with less than two minutes to play, came after he pushed off on Leslie McDonald but it wasn't called.

If not for a couple of missed free throws by Sullivan - one with 1:50 to go and one with 38 seconds left - the Tar Heels likely would have lost.

For all the talk about Carolina's free throw shooting this year, Davidson's 14 of 24 performance hurt the Wildcats in this one.

Tar Heels 97, Davidson 85
Paige wakes up to lead UNC to OT win

UNC's Marcus Paige, who was held to no points in the first half and six points in the second half, erupted for 11 in overtime as the Tar Heels escaped with a 97-85 victory over Davidson at home. (12/21)

With 38 seconds left in regulation, Carolina trailed 79-77 to a Wildcat team that stood at 4-7 and lost to Clemson by more than 30 points.

But Paige drew a foul and canned two free throws to tie it with 29 seconds left and Davidson's Brian Sullivan, who seemingly couldn't miss from beyond the arc, couldn't get a long three to go and the game went into overtime.

Paige quickly took over with a driving layup from the left side to start overtime. UNC's Nate Britt followed with a long two. After a Davidson free throw, Paige scored five straight points including a swished three to put the Heels up 88-80 with 2:43 left.

It never got closer than seven the rest of the way as the Heels worked the final margin up to 12, the largest lead of the game.

The first half was back and forth but after a 15-3 Carolina run, it appeared the Tar Heels might be in control at 31-22. Leslie McDonald started the run with a three and a quick Luke Davis to James Michael McAdoo to Jackson Simmons lay in play ended the run.

But a quick 7-0 Davidson run, highlighted by a Sullivan three for his 13th point of the first half, put the Wildcats right back in it and the Heels led 38-35 at the break.

Carolina employed a full-court press and trapping defense in the second half to rattle Davidson. The Heels finished with 11 steals and forced 22 Wildcat turnovers.

"We went to the press and got some turnovers," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "We had to start trying things. It was a hard game."

He said it was a frustrating game in many ways. "But this is my team. You have to understand that," he said.

Williams did say he was pleased that his team, maligned for its free throw shooting, hit free throws down the stretch. The Tar Heels finished with 72 percent (34 of 47) from the line.

While Paige was the hero late, JP Tokoto led the way throughout with a career-high 22 points. He also hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds, had a game-high five steals and a game-high four blocked shots.

Over the past 15 years, Tokoto and Tyler Hansbrough are the only Tar Heels to have scored at least 20 points, gotten 10 rebounds and picked up five steals in a single game.

Davidson's Sullivan scored 33 to lead all scorers. Sullivan, who had five three pointers in 11 games, scored seven from behind the line.

The Tar Heels, now 8-3, hosts Northern Kentucky Friday night.


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