Junior forward Luke Maye scored 27 of his career-high 33 points in the second half Saturday afternoon, carrying the 21st-ranked Tar Heels to a 96-89 victory over the NC State Wolfpack at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
Having just been on the wrong end of an upset loss in overtime to the Wolfpack a little over two weeks ago at the Dean Dome, Maye’s heroic effort helped UNC (19-7, 8-5 ACC) avoid being swept by NC State (16-9, 6-6 ACC) for the first time since 2003.
The Huntersville native was everywhere in the second half, constantly coming up with big play after big play—whether it was driving the ball to the basket, creating second chance opportunities or draining a pair of deep three-pointers.
In addition to the career-high in scoring, Maye also grabbed 17 rebounds—eight of which came on the offensive end.
All five Tar Heel starters ended the game scoring in double figures, though, as head coach Roy Williams’ team set a new school record against ACC competition by shooting 78 percent from the floor after halftime.
“Luke Maye was pretty special today,” Williams told reporters. “We had it out of bounds, underneath, with limited time I forget how much it was.
“He pulled up and shot it—he had made four or five in a row—but I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” the coach added. “But it went in. So I said, ‘Good shot.’ I thought Luke was sensational.”
During the first half, however, it appeared as if the Wolfpack might actually pull off the elusive season sweep in emphatic fashion.
Head coach Kevin Keatts’ squad reeled off a 19-0 run that turned a 10-point deficit into a nine-point lead and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
The wheels seemed to be falling off for the Tar Heels, until suddenly it was their turn to make a run.
UNC scored the final seven points of the first half, setting Maye up to spearhead the historic offensive explosion once the teams returned from their locker rooms after halftime.
“I was really mad at my team at the end of the first half because we started giving in to a little adversity,” Williams said. “I told them I was not gonna call a timeout because State was kicking our rear end just because we weren’t competing.
“They needed to grow up.”
Growing up is what Williams wanted from his guys and it appears that’s exactly what he’s been getting.
The victory was constructed in similar fashion as Thursday’s home win over Duke, giving the Tar Heel faithful a pair of wins over their biggest rivals in a span of less than 48 hours.
Maye’s return to form as the man who has so often looked like an ACC Player of the Year candidate this season is exactly what the doctor ordered for UNC, which had lost three straight games entering this week.
With the rest of the team also starting to fire on all cylinders, it seems as if it’s way too early to count this group of Tar Heels out of anything just yet.
The Tar Heels will return to the friendly confines of the Dean Dome for their next game, which is against Notre Dame on Monday at 7 p.m.
- Maye has scored at least 30 points three times this season, with two of those games coming against NC State. He scored 31 in UNC’s loss to the Wolfpack at home on Jan. 27.
- After draining 15 three-pointers in its previous win over the Tar Heels, NC State made just seven on Saturday.
- The list of UNC players who have scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 15 rebounds in multiple games during the same season is short. It includes: Lennie Rosenbluth, Billy Cunningham, Mitch Kupchak and now Luke Maye.
- UNC scored on 29 of its 30 second-half possessions that didn’t end in a turnover against NC State on Saturday.
Cover photo via Todd Melet