As I said before, Paige started off really slow and perhaps was a little nervous in his first start. He wasn't shooting well, he didn't penetrate, and he just never had the command of the offense in the first half.
He ended the game with six points, one assist and three turnovers. While those numbers look awful, the lack of assists was due in part to the poor shooting of the team.
Paige truly did run the show a lot more effectively in the second half. He also contributed six rebounds, which is huge from his position. He seemed to just have a knack for finding the ball.
J.P. Tokoto didn't put up a lot of numbers, but his game looked promising too.
He finished with just two points, but he also had five rebounds in his limited minutes. His ups will probably be the best on the floor at all times. It's crazy how effortless it looks.
Tokoto is just a great athlete, which helps him a lot in recovering on defense. Now he just needs to get to the point where he doesn't have to recover as much. That will come with experience.
He also needs some work on his jump shots, but it was kind of a "join the crowd" situation last night. That is one of his weaknesses coming in, though. That will be something to keep an eye on down the road.
If it weren't for Joel James, I would have to go with Brice Johnson as the most impressive freshman. I will say he was the most surprising—at least for me.
From the moment he jumped in, he was owning the game. The Tar Heels were actually down before Johnson started a run with his turnaround jumper and an authoritative put-back jam.
I thought it was Tokoto up there in the sky for a minute.
Johnson finished with eight points and six rebounds. His motor never slowed down, and he never did a disappearing act. When he was in the game, you knew it.
The same can be said of Joel James. He was just a monster, and certainly looked like he belonged in the starting lineup.
What everyone considered his weakness was his strength last night. He dropped a left hook, some jumpers and even displayed a nice spin move in the low post.
He also had the "don't come in my house" attitude I expected on defense.
James is just a bruiser. He even took a hard landing straight on his back. He sat laid there for a second to regain his composure and popped right back up like nothing happened.
A normal human being probably would've headed to the sideline, clutching his back. But James is not human. Check his DNA.
By no means is Joel James a finished product, but between the scrimmage and the exhibition, he seems a lot closer than we previously thought.
Wait until next season when these guys have more experience and are possibly starting together. That's going to be a show.
We already talked about Paige, so I'll move straight to Dexter Strickland and Luke Davis.
Strickland played the point a little better than he has in the past. His offseason studying seems to have paid off. The offense rolled pretty well with him in there, but his defense also increased the tempo.
In reality, he plays the two about the same as the one, so it really doesn't matter which position he plays.
Luke Davis was a welcome surprise. He's a tough player and the only point guard on the squad that can really get down and physical.
He just isn't as dynamic as the other two.
Davis finished with just two points and two assists, but he showed he can penetrate, run the offense efficiently and play some pretty tight defense. I'd like to see a little more playing time out of him.
We'll have to see how Roy works out that situation.
The Post is Alive
James Michael McAdoo looked really good last night. He seemed to be much more comfortable in the post than last year. I could actually see the difference in his game, unlike the scrimmage.
For a while he was making his shots, but he did seem to taper off as the game went on.
He led the team in scoring and rebounding, putting up 16 points and eight boards. Four of those points came from his typical steal and dunk.
Desmond Hubert looked like he stepped up his game, too. But he did seem to disappear, and wasn't nearly as effective as James.
When James and McAdoo were together, they seemed to own the paint. It became even more obvious as the game went on.
The Tar Heels played pretty good defense the first half, but it became complete chaos for Shaw in the second half. I couldn't keep track of all the steals, blocks and rebounds that started a fast break.
Aside from the switching issues I mentioned in the "Negatives," this defense was owning the floor.
As much as Roy was switching them in and out, it was hard to tell which lineup was the most effective. But what I learned is you can't go wrong with just about any lineup.
These guys were everything I expected them to be on defense. Athleticism kills in this system.
I kind of expected fast breaks to look a little sloppy with the new guys in there, but that simply wasn't the case.
When McAdoo wasn't taking it coast-to-coast himself, Johnson and Tokoto proved to be perfectly capable of pushing it up the floor with the speed required by Roy Williams.
James even pulled a Tyler Zeller and was down the floor all alone for a dunk. He can move for a big man.
The passing was incredible, too. It was as if everyone could jump in and play point. When there are two or three passes after passing half court, that's team play.
And it was also very smart in these situations. Don't take a bad shot and don't get yourself hurt—hit the open man if there is one.
That's what they did, and they did it very effectively.