By Ken Cross
North Carolina used a 26-6 run midway through the second half to post an 85-75 win over determined Davidson on Friday night behind 27 points from Joel Berry and another double-double of 24 points and 17 rebounds from Luke Maye. The following are three storylines that manifested themselves during the contest.
1) Back on the Boards
The Tar Heels, as we know, are a relentless rebounding team every season. Friday, it was with extreme enormity as North Carolina outrebounded Davidson, 54-23. The offensive glass was a major factor in the outcome as UNC had a 19-4 advantage on the offensive glass as the Heels outscored Davidson, 25-5.
“The break on the ball, quickness to the ball, I think that was a big part of it,” said Davidson coach Bob McKillop, “Their pace wears you down — and we’re a fast paced team.”
Maye’s 17 boards were a career high as he came in fifth in rebounding in the ACC thus far.
“We run a lot of motion, so there’s a lot of cuts and screens and we have worn teams down, so we seldom meet a team that wears us down and I think that had to do with us being slow to react to some of those balls,” McKillop explained.
2) B-Rob and the ‘Man’
Role players are a huge part of successful teams and North Carolina usually has several each year who consistently contribute. Brandon Robinson, a 6-5 sophomore guard, and 6-11 freshman Sterling Manley have solidified themselves as consistency contributors off the bench through eight games.
Robinson scored his eight points as he created his own 8-2 run midway through the first half as he was able to easily get into the paint as he gave Carolina it’s first lead at 20-19 with 10:40 to play.
Manley, who has averaged 6.2 points and 6.8 rebounds thus far, had a similar flurry in the second half. He scored six of his seven in an 11-1 run, midway through the second half that turned a 58-54 advantage into a 69-55 lead with 8:48 remaining. That turned out to be the decisive run of the game.
“I thought Brandon Robinson off the bench gave us a big time lift and I thought in the second half, Sterling gave us a big time lift,” said Tar Heels boss Roy Williams, “I have always said thought that those guys coming off the bench have to give you something positive.”
3) Recruiting Luke Maye
Luke Maye came back to Charlotte on Friday and once again controlled much of the game with his 24/17 effort. He grew up about 15 miles from the downtown in the sprawling Cornelius-Huntersville area where he was became one of the top players in the nation at Hough High School.
Maye went to basketball camp at neighboring Davidson and was recruited with ferocity by both McKillop and Williams.
“Nobody recruiting him as much as I did,” said McKillop, who is an icon in the area as he is in his 29th season with the Wildcats, “You can ask him that. I spent more time recruiting that young man than a lot of players.”
Maye’s presence on a basketball court would elevate any team in the nation and Davidson’s loss was certainly a boon for the Tar Heels.
“He could have been a star for us and he is a star for North Carolina,” noted McKillop, “He’s sensational and I am very happy for him. He is a wonderful young man.”
Williams knew he was in for a tough fight to gain Maye on his roster even though Luke’s father, Mark Maye, was a star quarterback for North Carolina in the mid-80s.
“I know how badly they wanted Luke and I wanted Luke really badly and I go back to how many times he was in our summer camp and I told his Dad, ‘Mark, don’t settle. I think he is going to be good enough at the end. Just don’t be in a hurry.'”
Williams was correct in his assessment and now Maye’s overall game is atop opponents’ gameplans across the country.
“The biggest thing is I liked him as a person and as a kid,” said Williams, “He did have some ability to shoot, some great hands, and he had great instincts to play the game — and the rest of it was sweat.”