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Off the cuff: With UNC scoring 58 points in a half a week ago and Holy Cross coming off a 122-118 double-overtime win against Sacred Heart, most probably expected an up and down, high-scoring game. But neither team could score in the first half.

The Tar Heels, who shot 27 percent in the first half, went six minutes without scoring.

Amazingly UNC coach Roy Williams was pretty calm throughout this game - at least until the end when a couple of quick shots and turnovers allowed Holy Cross to pull to within six points.

He probably knows this team is fragile right now and his expectations are lower with Hairston and McDonald out of the lineup.

I'm not real clear why it takes so long for the NCAA to make a decision on the fate of the two underclassmen but something needs to be done one way or the other so this team can move forward. The other players on the team don't deserve this limbo.

Sunday's game against Belmont, a team better than Holy Cross, may tell us more about how this team is going to do - at least until or if Hairston and McDonald come back.

Tar Heels 62, Holy Cross 54
Paige's career high saves sluggish Heels


Marcus Paige scored a career-high 23 points to keep North Carolina from getting embarrassed at home against Holy Cross, a team not expected to contend in its conference. With Leslie McDonald and PJ Hairston still in NCAA limbo on the Tar Heel bench, one has to wonder if the Heels will contend in the ACC following a lackluster 62-54 win. (11/15)

After the season-opening half being close to perfect last week, fans at the Smith Center probably weren't expecting a first half where the Tar Heels shot just 27 percent and were outrebounded by a smaller squad. But heading into the second half, Holy Cross was tied with No. 12 ranked Heels at 25-all.

Holy Cross took a three-point lead, its largest lead of the game at 32-29, early in the second half. Carolina got the lead back after a Paige steal and layup combined with a Kennedy Meeks follow shot inside before Holy Cross tied it at 35.

That's when the Tar Heels took control of the game with a 12-0 run. Brice Johnson provided a spark off the bench as he hit a turn-around jumper and scored on a layup following a Luke Davis steal to start the run.

JP Tokoto hit a jumper and Paige drove around the basket for a layin to put the Heels up 43-35.

Johnson backed in for a short shot and Paiger hit a jumper from the right side to end the run to put Carolina up 47-35.

The lead got as high as 13 when Paige drilled a three from the top of the key to make it 52-39 with less than seven minutes to go.

The final result was never really in doubt again even though Holy Cross cut the lead to 56-50 with 1:14 to go before the Heels settled for an eight-point win.

"We were a little more patient and we made some shots in the second half," UNC's Roy Williams said. "It was pretty ugly but I like what we did in the second half."

Williams pointed to the efforts of Davis, Johnson and Meeks, who led the Heels with eight rebounds in only 21 minutes of play.

But Williams realizes the importance of Paige's effort. "He was a big-time player for us," he said. "He's our best shooter and the other guys need to work harder to get him open."

Paige said he is more aggressive in looking for his shot this year. "Someone has to be able to score from the perimter to take some pressure off James Michael (McAdoo) inside."

McAdoo scored 11 points while Johnson tallied 12 to join Paige in double figures.

Paige tried to be positive after the game. "A little adversity will make us better," he said.

The Tar Heels shot only 38 percent for the game but they did hold Holy Cross to 29 percent.

The 2-0 Tar Heels host Belmont Sunday at 4 p.m. to continue the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.


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