Despite all the good it offers, a college basketball season like the one we are currently enjoying—one that comes stocked with All-American talent and blue chip NBA prospects—can find itself lacking in the presence of a particular brand of collegiate star: the little guy who, despite his diminutive size and long-shot odds at becoming an NBA star, will still do things that make you gasp for air and mutter, "How in the hell did this little dude just do that?" Jimmer Fredette was that guy once, and so was Kemba Walker. This year, finally, we've got our man in North Carolina point guard Marcus Paige.
Paige scored just four points in the first half of last night's game against NC State. In the second half and overtime, he scored 31 points while turning NC State's defense to ash and carrying his team to an 85-84 victory. None of those 31 points were as impressive as the last two, which the 6-foot-1 guard netted after driving into the teeth of the NC State defense and sending home the softest little lefty layup with 0.9 seconds left on the clock. 85-84, North Carolina. "How in the hell did this little dude just do that?"
If that layup looked familiar to you, it's because it was nearly a carbon copy of the game-sealing shot Paige unleashed in the final minutes of last week's upset against Duke. UNC spent nearly the entire game chipping away at a big Duke lead until one of Paige's jumpers—part of a 13-point second-half barrage—gave them a four-point lead with just over two minutes left to play. Jabari Parker made two free throws on the next Duke possession, and then Paige did this:
UNC never looked back, and won 74-66. I have a feeling that a few Duke and NC State players are going to have nightmares about little Marcus Paige gliding past them through the paint, his left hand extended toward the rim, ready to kiss one off the glass.
UNC has now won 10 games in a row, and the 18 points and five assists per game Paige has put up during that stretch is a big reason why. UNC fans are just happy the team is winning, but the rest of us can be glad to have finally found a little guy that can make us gasp:
No, really, how did that little dude do that?