It was the best of first halves followed by a second half struggle, some questionable officiating, a technical foul on Roy Williams and ultimately a strong finish for the Tar Heels to knock off William & Mary 86-64.
As far as the way UNC started and played the first half, there was little to complain about. William & Mary's 21.8 turnover rate was exploited early and often. UNC used eight Tribe turnovers to score 13 points on the way to shooting 65.6% in the first half and 3-7 from three. J.P. Tokoto scored 11 of his 19 points in the first half which included making a pair of threes. UNC had 14 assists on 21 made field goals and a commanding 49-27 lead at the break.
As is bound to happen from time to time, UNC experienced a letdown to start the second half. The Tar Heels struggled to make shots thanks in part to the Tribe going exclusively to a 3-2 zone. That bothers UNC's overall offensive execution and led to several missed shots. Isaiah Hicks, who had been effective on the boards was saddled with four fouls. Kennedy Meeks left the game and the bench area due to a sickness he had been battle for the three days prior. That left UNC a bit short handed and player a smaller lineup. UNC's poor shooting permitted the Tribe to get as close as 13 with 11:14 left. The lackluster effort from the Tar Heels led to an air of restlessness and significant frustration boiling just under the surface for Roy Williams.
Then referee Jamie Luckie happened.
With 11:14 left in the game, referee Andrew Marotta signaled a charge call against William & Mary after Theo Pinson was knocked down in front of the basket. Marotta, who was positioned on the baseline, made the call but overruled by Luckie after conferring. Instead of a Tribe charge, Brice Johnson was whistled for a hold. Roy Williams came onto the court in an effort to get a timeout and was given a technical foul by Luckie.
"That was not my intent." Williams said in his postgame press conference. "I was yelling at Theo [Pinson] saying 'call timeout.' And he's pointing at me like 'I can't call a timeout.' I didn't think I was dealt with fairly but that's alright, those guys have a hard, hard job."
The result of the technical was a fired up Dean Dome crowd and also served to inspire the team which had been in a bit of a rut since the coming out of the locker room.
Despite the new found energy, UNC's poor shooting continued bottoming out at 4-20 from the floor through the first 13 minutes of the half. William & Mary managed to draw as close as nine with 6:03 left before the Heels went on a 18-5 run to shut the door. That run was keyed by five straight points from Paige then eight straight points from Nate Britt who nailed a pair of threes and hit two free throws to rebuild most of the halftime lead.
Tokoto led the Tar Heels with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Paige scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half and dished out six assists. Britt finished the game with 11 points while Johnson had nine points and eight boards. Theo Pinson had five points, four rebounds and four assists off the bench.
In the end the game was a bit of a mixed bag. UNC showed offensively and defensively in the first half what they are capable of doing. The offensive consistency was still lacking though the absence of Meeks and Hicks foul trouble was disruptive as was the zone. One positive is UNC's three point shooting which was solid for a second straight game. UNC went 8-20 from the floor and is 15-39 over the past two games with multiple players serving as three point threats. Four different Tar Heels in this game hit threes including two from Britt and two from Tokoto.
Heading into ACC play the focus is still on UNC's focus and consistency which still isn't at the level Roy Williams or his player knows it needs to be against a tough ACC slate.