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Paige's Burden

UNC's outside production is down to just one player.

UNC's Marcus Paige is under a lot of pressure, but the young guard isn't buckling.
UNC's Marcus Paige is under a lot of pressure, but the young guard isn't buckling.
Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

The absence of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, a pair of upperclass wings noted as 3-point shooters, has left North Carolina with a key weakness.

The Tar Heels have plenty of players, plenty of parts, but their perimeter punch is a bit wanting. A bit wanting is a charitable understatement, akin to 'You look like you could use a rest.'

UNC was hitting at a .396 clip from beyond the arc through its first five games, four of them victories. Then came a 1-12 shooting performance on threes in a loss at UAB, dropping the team's accuracy to .333.

Remarkably, a single player has been carrying the weight from long range. Sophomore Marcus Paige ranks among the hottest long-distance dialers in the ACC, but he was 0-6 against the Racers, and the Heels had no way to compensate.

Paige struggled with his shooting until midseason as a freshman -- .299 on threes over his first 19 games, .391 over the final 16. He's picked up where he left off, making 44.7 percent of his 3-point tries this year.

Three other league players were more accurate on threes through games of Dec. 1 - Virginia Tech freshman Ben Emelogu (.533), Duke freshman Jabari Parker (.500), and Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton (.500). But no one was more central to his team's bonusphere success than the left-handed Paige.

Of 20 threes made by UNC, 17 were converted by Paige. That's 85 percent, more than any other players in the ACC to this point.

Last year four conference players were responsible for as much as a third of their teams' made 3-pointers. Only one, N.C. State's Scott Wood, was responsible for better than half; Wood accounted for 56.5 percent of the Wolfpack's threes (104 of 184).

It's unlikely Paige will have to shoulder so great a burden in 2014. He's better if blended into a more balanced whole, assuming Hairston and McDonald -- shelved while awaiting NCAA verdicts on their eligibility -- return to the lineup.

Without the derailed duo, Roy Williams had better find help, and fast, for the slender guard he fondly calls a tough little nut.

ACC Players Responsible For Largest Percentage Of Team's 3-Pointers, 2013-14
(Through Games Of December 1, 2013)

Pct. Team 3s Player, Team 3s of Total
Team 3s
3 Pct.
.850 Marcus Paige, NC 17 of 20 .447 17-38
.568 Trevor Cooney, SU 21 of 37 .457 21-46
.460 Jake Layman, M 23 of 50 .511 23-45
.438 Coron Williams, WF 21 of 48 .412 21-51
.433 Ian Miller, FS 13 of 30 .382 13-34
.351 Solomon Poole, GT 13 of 37 .371 13-35
.333 Joe Harris, V 16 of 48 .552 16-29
.333 Ralston Turner, NS 8 of 24 .333 8-24