Maye's career day gets Tar Heels past N.C. State

North Carolina NC State Basketball
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North Carolina's Luke Maye (32) and North Carolina State's Lennard Freeman (1) reach for a rebound while North Carolina's Sterling Manley and Abdul-Malik Abu (0) struggle at left during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

North Carolina NC State Basketball-3

Sports Writer

Saturday, February 10, 2018

RALEIGH — Were it not for Luke Maye, N.C. State might just have pulled off a sweep of North Carolina this season.

And were it not for Maye’s 33 points, 17 rebounds and 15 of 22 shooting — including 27 during a second half in which the Tar Heels shot 78.1 percent — Kenny Williams may not have had a chance to ice the game.

But, after a resilient N.C. State team pulled to within two points with ninety seconds left, Theo Pinson found Williams wide open on the left wing. In one catch-and-shoot motion, he calmly sunk the 3-pointer for an 88-83 lead. It was the shot that broke the Wolfpack’s back in a 96-89 win for UNC on Saturday afternoon at PNC Arena.

“You’ve got to give it up to him,” N.C. State’s Torin Dorn said. “That was a great shot.”

In the immediate aftermath of the game, Williams shot stood out as timely and cold-blooded, but the career night for Maye may have been the more resounding occurrence.

“My teammates found me in the right spots, I made a couple early, just continued to shoot it and stay aggressive, and luckily they continued to go in,” Maye summated after the game. 

In that second half, there was a two minute stretch with seven minutes remaining where the big man took it upon himself to suppress a possible Wolfpack (16-9, 6-6 ACC) comeback, hitting a jump shot, converting a 3-point play, making a deep 3-pointer and, finally, a layup, single-handedly pushing the lead from two to seven while N.C. State tried but failed to match baskets.

“Luke Maye was pretty special today,” UNC coach Roy Williams said with a smile. “He did have six turnovers, I told him that.”

Pinson, who finished with 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting with seven assists, knew after a second half moment it was going to be a special game for Maye.

“He’s a dog, man. When I saw him come down court and tell the away crowd, ‘Let’s go,’ I was like, ‘OK, yeah. He’s on something right now,’’ he said.

The only double-digit lead of the game in an otherwise tight contest came for the No. 21 Tar Heels (19-7, 8-5 ACC) at 28-18, which was immediately erased by a 19-0 run by the Wolfpack, a stretch of the game that had the 19,500 in attendance at its rowdiest.

Braxton Beverly started it with a 3-point shot, and a combination mostly of Omer Yurtseven, Dorn and Allerick Freeman created the rest of the avalanche.

Williams, however, refused to call a timeout, opting for a teaching moment, which came quickly: UNC countered with a 7-0 run capped by an and-one to cut the lead at the half to just two.

“I felt we started giving in to a little adversity,” Williams said. “I told them I was not going to call timeout because State was kicking our rear end because we weren’t competing. They needed to grow up.”

An 8-3 run to begin the second half, aided by both Joel Berry II and Maye, recaptured the lead for the Tar Heels, who tried but failed to extend the lead past either three or two points for most of the stretch in the final 10 minutes.

The Wolfpack, who shot 54.7 percent for the game in their own right, committed only 11 turnovers to UNC’s 19, but lacked a run like the one they mounted in the first half to ever take back control of the game.

Dorn finished with 21 and five other N.C. State players finished in double-digits, but on a night where they needed to play nearly flawless, they couldn’t aggregate enough good basketball for a season sweep and another signature win.

“The plays we made at the end of the game at UNC they made tonight,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said. “The biggest play of the game probably was when (Kenny) Williams made that 3-pointer that created some separation. At UNC, we made those types of shots.”