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North Carolina's Marcus Paige might be ready for Maryland game

North Carolina guard Marcus Paige stands in the huddle during a timeout in the second half of the Tar Heels' game against Northern Iowa.
North Carolina guard Marcus Paige stands in the huddle during a timeout in the second half of the Tar Heels' game against Northern Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

The matchup between Maryland and North Carolina might have lost some of its luster after the then-No. 1 Tar Heels lost at Northern Iowa on Saturday and dropped eight spots in the Associated Press media poll.

But the matchup of potential Maryland sophomore Melo Trimble and North Carolina senior Marcus Paige, both All-American point guards, might happen when the No. 2 Terps play in Chapel Hill on Dec. 1 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

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Paige, who has yet to play this season after breaking his right hand toward the end of preseason practice, went through pregame warmup drills with his teammates prior to North Carolina's win over Northwestern Monday night in Kansas City.

Paige told the Raleigh News & Observer before Monday's game that he was "very close" to returning and put the percentage of him playing against Maryland "in the 90s."

Though he acknowledged that any small setback might keep him out of the Maryland game, he added, "it's going to be extremely difficult not to not be on the court December 1."

Paige dressed for the game at Northern Iowa, which was scheduled in keeping with a longstanding North Carolina tradition of playing games in a star player's home state. Paige and Tar Heels coach Roy Williams are being cautious about rushing Paige.

"The basketball part – the passing, catching, dribbling, all that stuff feels good now," said Paige, who has had the hand taped during his pregame warmups. "Now it's just a matter if [the hand] hits somebody or if I fall, is it in a good-enough place healing-wise to not be affected by that? …

"That's the thing that they're not 100 percent sure about that, so that's why I'm not playing ... If it was up to me, I'd be playing tomorrow. But it's not up to me, it's up to those people above me – coach Williams and the doctors and stuff, so I'm just trying to be patient with it."

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