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First-half Kenny Williams is one of the best players in the NCAA

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The wing has been starting games off at an unprecedented pace

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In the first nine minutes and change of UNC’s game at Stanford, Kenny Williams scored 20 of UNC’s 26 points, connecting on six of seven three-pointers and generally leaving jaws on the floor. He didn’t score again in that game, and much was made of his unselfishness as he still made his presence felt by taking charges, moving the ball, hitting the floor, and generally being the ultimate team player. What people might not realize is that this is becoming normal for Williams.

He isn’t going to be taking seven 3’s in a single half, but as far as efficiency goes, the stats do the talking. Through 10 games, Williams is making two-thirds of the three-pointers he shoots in the first half, and this is starting to get to the point where “small sample size” isn’t enough to explain this.

Three shots per first half is decent volume, and 27 shots, while not a ton, is enough to identify a tendency. It’s worth noting here that Williams’ 55% overall 3-point percentage is astronomical on its own and is good enough for 14th in the NCAA among players with 27 or more attempts. His first half percentage of 66.67% would be first, and it beats the 60% expected shooting percentage for completely unguarded three-pointers. He’s shooting better in actual games than most college shooters would be expected to shoot alone in the gym. Have I gushed enough yet?

This first-half dominance extends to scoring as well, as Williams has been at 60.4% from the field in the opening 20 as opposed to 44.7% in the second half (still, it should be noted, not a bad mark for a guard). The real story, though, is how much smaller Williams’ volume is in the second half, which is exactly what was being noted in the wake of the Stanford game. It’s not a stretch to imagine that his lower volume contributes to his lower efficiency in the second half; it’s harder to get into rhythm when your looks are that occasional.

Williams is, as it stands, one of the most potent offensive threats in college basketball, with an offensive rating of 132.7, a True Shooting Percentage of 67.6%, and an eFG% of 65.9%. Nothing about what he’s done needs to change. It’s fair to wonder, though, what might happen to those second-half numbers once ACC play starts and the rotation tightens a little.

Doing the absurdly simple extrapolation of doubling Williams’ first-half stats, he would average 18/4/2.5 a game, which are star-level numbers, and Williams is at best the 3rd offensive option in the starting lineup! That he has done what he’s done with such low usage (so far this year, his Usage% is just 18%, meaning less than a fifth of plays that UNC runs while he is on the floor involve him) is truly remarkable.

Fortunately for the Heels, as prolific a scorer as Williams has shown he can be, he’s not by any means a score-first player. He leads the Tar Heels in charges taken, and after each one, he’s shown more exuberance than he ever has after hitting a three.

This means that even though Williams’ scoring might tail off in the second half, just like in the Stanford game, he continues to be a productive player. His rebounding, assisting, and steals/half numbers all skew slightly towards the first half, but the fact that Williams has played a lot more first-half minutes than second-half minutes this year is very likely a contributing factor. I don’t have per-40 information for per-half statistics, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t close to identical.

Four years ago, UNC introduced the world to second-half Marcus Paige, who took a half to scout opponents’ tendencies and set up his teammates before going off on them on his own. Now, get ready for first-half Kenny Williams, who lets you know exactly what he could do to you before spreading the love to his teammates.