"It was really preventative," the sophomore guard said. " I fell on it a couple of times in the Duke game and it's been something that's bothered me a little bit. But it was fine today. I had had a little soreness in my thumb, but I practiced with that all week and it was no problem. "
Paige wasn't shy in testing his shot as evidenced by his two 3-point attempts on UNC's opening possession.
The first-team All-ACC and second-team All-America scored 27 points on 9-of-20 shooting (4-of-12 from 3) and grabbed five rebounds in the loss. In typical Paige fashion, he scored 20 points after halftime.
That second-half flurry almost never materialized, however, due to a collision with a Panther just minutes after intermission.
Paige exited the game with 17:55 to play, and promptly laid down behind the Tar Heel bench as head athletic trainer Doug Halverson surveyed the damage to his left leg. After a brief stint on the exercise bike, Paige re-entered the game at the 15:46 media timeout.
"I got hit in the knee, right above the knee, and it just locked up on me," Paige said. "It was awkward – both guys kind of hit each other. It was hard to move the rest of the game. I couldn't really change directions or sprint or anything."
Paige provided insight into his thought process upon leaving the court and watching his team battle against a double-digit deficit astride the exercise bike.
"I was just trying to get it loosened up because when you want to win so bad, you want to be out there and do anything you can to help your team," Paige said.
UNC has been fortunate this season with regard to injuries; however, an injury to its best player, however slight, could be crippling if it lingers into next week. Tar Heel fans are well-versed when it comes to NCAA Tournament detours due to point guard injuries, such as Kenny Smith in 1984 and Kendall Marshall in 2012.
"Hopefully a couple of days to ice it down and work on it will get it right," Paige said. "I don't think there's anything structurally wrong with it…
"That was a lot of pain, but I'll be okay."