The 11th-ranked UNC men’s basketball team put the early season grinder behind them on Wednesday night at the Dean Dome—completing a stretch of seven games in 14 days with a 104-61 win over the Western Carolina Catamounts.
After falling behind 5-0 in the opening minute, the Tar Heels reeled off a 33-3 run over the next 12 minutes to erase any doubt surrounding the outcome, if there ever was any to begin with.
During the game-deciding stretch, UNC (9-1) scored 20 consecutive points at one point while holding the Catamounts (3-7) scoreless for over eight minutes.
The run was mainly sparked by juniors Luke Maye and Kenny Williams—who combined for all 25 of their points in the first half alone.
Maye ultimately finished with 12 points, five assists and 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the year. Williams, meanwhile, ended up with 13 points of his own and continued to be UNC’s spark plug on the defensive end.
Both players were also key contributors in the Tar Heels’ best perimeter shooting performance since head coach Roy Williams took over in 2003.
UNC converted on a season-high 16 of its 22 shots as a team from beyond the arc, with Maye responsible for two of them and Williams responsible for three.
“Once guys see a couple of them go in, the rim looks bigger for everybody, and everybody’s confidence goes up,” Kenny Williams told reporters after the game. “And I think that’s what happened tonight.”
On top of the production from Maye and Williams, senior point guard Joel Berry chipped in 12 points and four assists for the Tar Heels.
Berry’s fellow senior classmate, Theo Pinson, once again led the team in assists—as the Greensboro native registered seven helpers on the night to go along with his four points.
With the game so out of hand, the Tar Heels mostly relied on their young bench players to get them through the final 10 minutes.
That ultimately led to six different players reaching double figures–and 10 scoring at least four points for the Tar Heels—including a career-high 15 points and five assists from freshman guard Jalek Felton.
The second half was mostly a well-deserved break for the team’s main contributors, who have dealt with injuries to Berry, Cam Johnson and Seventh Woods in addition to playing a difficult, travel-heavy schedule early in the season.
Still, though, UNC will now head into a 10-day break for final exams with a solid 9-1 record—as it looks to recharge the batteries before the competition heats up the rest of the way.
“I told them I wasn’t worried about the score,” Roy Williams said about the pre-game discussion he had with his players. “I was concerned about how we were gonna play. We were more gifted than them—I told them that before the game—but I wanted to see how we were gonna play [with the long break ahead].”
UNC will take a week and a half off, before resuming the season in Knoxville on Dec. 17 with a road game at Tennessee.
- The first half saw UNC reel off its first 20-0 run since doing it twice in the same game at home against NC State last season, a 107-56 victory for the Tar Heels on Jan. 8, 2017.
- The 104 points were also a season-high for UNC, and represent the second time the team has hit the 100-point mark in 10 games this season.
- This was just the second meeting all-time between the two schools, and first since UNC defeated Western Carolina 77-59 back on Jan. 30, 1957.
- Luke Maye has now surpassed his point total from the entirety of last season (194). He’s up to 199 already in 2017-18.
Cover photo via Todd Melet