Jae’Lyn Withers has had a sputtering start to his Carolina career. The Louisville transfer was injured right before the season started, ceding a possible starting position to Paxson Wojcik and often looked lost on the court. Was he a big perimeter player? Was he an athletic, if undersized “4”?
He has started answering those questions and against his old team, he did so emphatically.
Withers had a season-high in both points (15) and rebounds (10) against Louisville last night in Chapel Hill, his first double-double of the season. His production was needed, too. Cormac Ryan, who started the game hot — hitting four 3-pointers in the first half — got saddled with some dubious foul calls, requiring Withers to come in longer than usual. He responded with a season-high 24 minutes on the floor and was extremely efficient, shooting 5-6 in the first half, and 2-2 in the second.
Withers double-double off the bench was the first for North Carolina since Brady Manek against App State in Dec. 2021. https://t.co/MQFC2xLJEM— Bryan Ives (@awaytoworthy) January 18, 2024
And where Ryan did his damage from beyond the arc, Withers stuck to his most fertile hunting ground—around the rim. He was absolutely devastating, attacking from all angles and providing cuts for the guards to find him with crisp passing. He also showed toughness, finishing through contact:
Withers can cut an aloof figure at times, but I like to describe it as “unbothered.” That quality can be frustrating when he’s not playing well, but last night when he was cruising, it meant that he can keep a calm head in a stressful situation. This may have been the play of the game late in the second-half:
UNC’s bench production has been a huge plus this season after being woefully underutilized by Hubert Davis the past two seasons. But last night, Seth Trimble and Jalen Washington did not have the type of production Carolina needs to win tight games (both were scoreless against the Cardinals). Withers more than made up for that dip, and buoyed the starting line-up with Cormac Ryan out for extended periods.
If the Tar Heels can count on this type of production from Jae’Lyn Withers moving forward, this team’s ceiling just got a little higher.