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Night Court: T.J. Warren scores 41, sets record in win at Pitt

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
C (USATSI)
A big night for ACC players, as UNC's Marcus Paige had a game-saving block. (USATSI)

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Here's everything you need to know from college basketball's Monday.

Game of the Night: North Carolina matches 27-year-old school record.

UNC fans weren't expecting a gripping home contest against a sub-.500 Notre Dame team Monday night. But it's what they got, and Heels fans -- in addition to college hoops diehards everywhere -- shouldn't be surprised. Because if we've learned anything this season about the Heels, it's how they can be entertaining but unpredictable.

Yet for all the uncertainty, this is now a team that's won 12 straight games, the program's longest streak in the ACC league since it went 14-0 in 1986-87.

Who'd have thought it's been that long between streaks?

And who'd have thought this would be a UNC team worth considering for the Final Four? Hey, I'm not saying it's by any means a favorite. But have you looked at the potential tournament field? There are about 20 teams who have the talent to get there. Few have the wins of UNC, and even fewer have the winning streak of UNC.

On Monday UNC won because of a game-clinching block by ... the point guard. Marcus Paige, the sophomore who's done so much for this team this season, was the send-back fella. He'll be a First Team guy in the ACC when the league hands out its awards in a week.

Paige rejected Notre Dame senior point guard Eric Atkins with 1.9 seconds to go after Atkins opted to take the ball the full length of the court in the closing seconds of a 63-61 game. As he got near the tin, he was met by James Michael McAdoo and Paige. The loose ball couldn't be corralled by the Irish in time for a second shot, so UNC won 63-61 and moves on and remains the No. 4 seed in the ACC.

Paige made good for going 1 for 2 from the foul line prior to the final sequence. As a team, North Carolina continues to be worrisome from the charity stripe. Roy Williams' group shot 10-22 from the line Monday night. The free-throw shooting remains the primary concern for UNC.

McAdoo lead UNC with 14 points and nine boards. Seventeen of UNC's 25 field goals came via assist.

The Heels are now 23-7, 13-4 in the ACC. They close out their season on the road against Duke Saturday. Then comes the ACC tournament. Another loss is inevitable, but even so, isn't time to start considering Williams' team more than a skiddish group? Winning close -- evne against a bad team -- there's something to be said for not blowing it. There's something even more to be said about putting together a 12-game winning streak in a league like the ACC, which is as strong at the top as any in the country.

What else we'll be talking about in the morning: T.J. Warren. Forty-one.

The N.C. State Wolfpack have had one of the best pure scorers in college basketball all season. But since Mark Gottfried's team hasn't been good for most of the year, T.J. Warren's been short on national accolades. Plenty around the Triangle have been stumping for Warren as an All-American at some level, but you won't float into the discussion until you go on the road and drop a career-best 41 points on a team that's headed to the NCAA tournament. It was also the most points by any player in the history of the Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh's home court.

But let me ask. Is Pittsburgh headed to the NCAA tournament? After losing 74-67 Monday night to N.C. State, the Panthers are anything but safe now. At 22-8 and with its best wins over Stanford and at Maryland, Jamie Dixon's team is going to minimally need to win one more game to feel OK. The season wraps up at Clemson this weekend. Could be a loss, as the Tigers are also a bubble team that's starving for a W. Losing to the Tigers this weekend, and winning one in the ACC tournament would become practically requisite at that point.

That's a good win: Oklahoma State locking up a bid?

The Cowboys easily won 77-61 at home over an NCAA tournament team in K-State. It was methodical and a very good sign for OSU, which has not lost since Marcus Smart returned from suspension (4-0) Side note you might not have realized: It was Marcus Smart's final home game. The sophomore star point guard said before the season began that he would leave for the pros after this season. So it was Senior Night, and Marcus Smart Night.

He went out with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Senior Markel Brown had 15 points, five rebounds, five dimes and three thefts. Such a talented team, really. Even with the skids this season, OSU is not to be taken lightly.

Have to figure this team is safe come Selection Sunday.

But that's a bad loss: Xavier gets swept by Seton Hall, falls 71-62.

The Musketeers losing is a damaging loss to the team's résumé, unquestionably. But the more important news is Matt Stainbrook's injury that caused him to leave the game in the first half. Reports from the scene were an apparent left knee injury caused Stainbrook to slam the floor in frustration, and he was unable to walk off the floor under his own power.

Afterward Xavier coach Chris Mack said Stainbrook will have an MRI in Cincinnati on Tuesday. If Stainbrook isn't a go for the rest of the season, Xavier's NCAA tournament hopes will very much be in doubt. He's a solid big and a very positive influence on the court.

Stainbrook had to leave on crutches, and tweeted this shortly after the game.

Players with impact

  1. T.J. Warren.
  2. T.J. Warren.
  3. T.J. Warren.
  4. T.J. Warren.
  5. T.J. Warren.

Other outcomes of note:

  • North Carolina Central clinched the MEAC regular-season title Monday night by beating Savannah State in overtime.
  • The Patriot League had its first two postseason games. Navy and Loyola of Maryland are done for the season, losing to Colgate and Lafayette, respectively.

Notebook:

-- If you have six minutes, read up on how great Draddy Gymnasium is and why the MAAC is going to have a good shot at winning an NCAA tournament game.

-- Monday's biggest off-the-court headline was Joel Embiid being put on the shelf until at least the Big 12 tournament.

-- John Calipari on Monday took accountability for the play of his team as of late.

-- According to local police, Missouri State's Emmanuel Addo was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated early Sunday morning.

-- The SEC came down against South Carolina on Monday with a fine worth more than my car.

-- Jrue Holiday's younger brother, Aaron, is following in big bro's footsteps and will play at UCLA.

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