UNC stormed into PNC Arena Tuesday night and never let the home team take a lead at any point over the course of 40 minutes in their 90-82 win over the 15th-ranked Wolfpack. All five starters finished the game in double figures, led by Luke Maye’s 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Carolina fans both near and far held their breath as Cameron Johnson laid on the floor at PNC Arena grabbing his knee. It felt, in that moment, like it could be a turning point in Carolina’s season. Losing their leading scorer so early in conference play would have been devastating. The good news is that Johnson’s injury turned out to just be a cramp, and his teammates found a way to win on the road in his absence.
Coby White was very good, scoring 19 points to finish just behind Maye in scoring. Johnson and Kenny Williams each finished with 15 points. Cam made four of his seven shots from downtown before the cramp kept him out of the rest of the game. He pulled down 11 rebounds himself to complete the double-double. Garrison Brooks finished the game with 11 points.
It was fortunate that the starters were so good for Carolina because they basically got no point production from their bench. That’s not to say their bench was ineffective, though. Both Leaky Black and Brandon Robinson played crucial minutes without Johnson in the game. When the score tightened up toward the end, Roy Williams decided to leave Robinson in the game instead of Nassir Little. Experience probably has a lot to do with that, and Robinson did his job.
Turnovers were an issue for UNC once again as they gave the ball away an alarming 23 times. That number includes seven turnovers by Maye and five by White. Some of those turnovers were a direct result of NC State’s effective pressure, but the high total against a ranked opponent means the Heels were pretty fortunate to escape with a win.
NC State wrestled with foul trouble all night, but they got a lot of bench production from Braxton Beverly (21 points, five three-pointers) and DJ Funderburk (15 points). Three Wolfpack starters finished the game with four fouls.
Carolina out-shot State by a narrow 45% to 43% margin from the field. The big difference came on shots from distance where the Heels made ten of their 25 threes (40%) and State made eight of their 28 (29%). UNC was also excellent at the free throw line, sinking 22 of their 26 shots. Maye, in particular, was successful on seven of his eight shots from the charity stripe.
The Tar Heels come home for their third ACC game on Saturday when they take on Louisville.