Once the North Carolina Tar Heels got their legs under them three minutes into the game, Kenny Williams and Luke Maye took control of the game. Their contributions extended the Carolina lead to double digits by the 14:00 minute mark, and the Heels did not look back.
The dominant effort by Williams and Maye in the first half certainly put them in the conversation for Player of the Game.
Maye finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, adding five assists and nailing both three-point attempts.
At one point, Williams was outscoring the entire WCU squad. Nine of his 13 points came from beyond the arc.
Besides what showed up on the stat sheet, these two players made the critical defensive and hustle plays that will make the difference in the success of this team during conference play and beyond. Tipped balls and steals, quick outlet passes, and chasing after loose balls are the things that separate these players from others in college basketball.
Tonight, however, was about Jalek Felton. With 18 minutes on the floor, Felton logged his most time on the court since the season opener against Northern Iowa. And he made the most of the opportunity.
Felton had a complete game on both ends of the court, and demonstrated his versatility at the point.
He led all UNC scorers with 15 points, hitting all four of his three pointers. Felton was 5-8 from the floor, and made one of his two attempts from the free throw line.
Felton successfully made space off a few screens to set up shots, and strictly from the eye test, his jump shot looked fluid and balanced.
Perhaps more impressively, Felton had five assists and distributed the ball well all night. Theo Pinson led the Tar Heels with seven assists, while Felton and Maye contributed five. Along with his five assists, he made crisp outlets passes on the break that set up Carolina transition baskets, most notably on the Pinson drive to the basket late in the second half.
His drives to the basket set up both his shots and others. One play in particular was the dish to Brandon Huffman after his drive and spin in the lane. Felton handled the ball across the timeline, and did not hesitate in driving in the lane. Instead of forcing a shot against two WCU defenders, he tossed it to Huffman who finished with the two handed slam.
Oh, and do not forget that perfectly executed alley-oop from Felton to Garrison Brooks.
As Felton continues to improve his defensive efforts, expect Coach Roy Williams to trust him more in relief of Joel Berry II. Because of the injury to Seventh Woods, Felton has the opportunity to make a real difference off the bench in the weeks ahead. No matter his offensive output or play-making abilities, his efforts defensively will likely determine how much time he will earn the team marches towards conference play.
Immediately after the game, Jason Capel interviewed Maye, and he credited Felton and others that provided crucial minutes and made key contributions off the bench. The depth of the back court will be a strength of this team, especially down the stretch, and nights like this from Felton will only make this team tougher to defend.