By Ken Cross
Not only has North Carolina’s Luke Maye become a phenom in Chapel Hill as potentially the next great North Carolina player, he is getting plenty of accolades nationally. Last weekend at the PK80, for example, ESPN’s Bill Walton espoused his admiration for Maye in the eloquent terms that only Walton can say.
Maye and the Tar Heels rebounded from their 63-45 loss to Michigan State with a resounding 86-71 win over Michigan in Chapel Hill. He was clearly the story once again on the floor as he is growing into the role of the Tar Heels’ go-to guy. Maye had set his career highs in the PK80 semifinals as he scored 28 points, grabbed 16 boards and dished five assists in the Heels’ 87-68 win over Arkansas.
He was on point again Wednesday night, in fueling Carolina’s two largest runs which led to the Heels taking a 68-39 lead with 13:06 to play.
“Going back home, you have to shoot well at your home; you know you shoot here everyday,” said Maye, “We had to get everybody back and get the ball rolling over these next three games. Its gonna be a tough stretch, but I think we are built for it.”
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) November 30, 2017
Maye went 11-of-16 from the floor in 31 minutes. He scored nine points over the last 7:46 of the first half as Carolina broke open a close game and took a 51-37 lead at the half. The Tar Heels sped out of the locker room as they hit a 17-2 run to garner that 68-39 lead. Maye had nine in that run as well.
“My teammates have given me all the confidence in the world,” said Maye of what is a tight-knit group on and off the court, “It starts with Coach Williams. He wants me to play my game and play to my strengths and I will continue to play my game and take what the defense gives me and hope it works out for us.”
Michigan coach John Beilein referenced Maye in the postgame as he talked about how the Wolverines couldn’t find a foil for the 6-8 junior. Maye was able to use his athleticism to score over Michigan’s 7-0 center Mo Wagner inside and on the boxes. He also took Duncan Robinson outside and broke him down off the dribble.
“I think, going into the game, I kind of wanted to bounce back from our game against Michigan State,” he said of the Tar Heels, who shot only 24.6 percent in the loss, “I think all of us took it upon ourselves to defend our home court. We came out and wanted to exert ourselves early and defend our home court. We take a lot of pride in winning games at home and got some stops on the defensive end and it was really big going into the second half.”
Maye referenced the week’s games as the Heels notched the win Wednesday night, travel to Charlotte on Friday for a matchup with Davidson in the Spectrum Center, and return home to face improved Tulane on Sunday. The matchup with Davidson allows Maye to go home to the Charlotte area and play in the backyard of where he grew up.
“I think every game is going to be different, he explained, ” Coach is going put the guys in that gives us the best chance to win and that is all that matters, depending on runs and how guys are playing. But all of our guys gave us great minutes tonight.”