No. 13 North Carolina holds off Davidson
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Luke Maye’s return to his hometown was a reminder to North Carolina coach Roy Williams how happy he is to have the junior forward on his side.
The alternative might have been troublesome for the Tar Heels on Friday night.
Joel Berry scored 27 points and Maye had 24 points and a career-high 17 rebounds as No. 13 North Carolina pulled away from upset-minded Davidson for an 85-75 victory at Spectrum Center.
If Maye hadn’t joined the Tar Heels, he might have been playing for Davidson.
“Davidson was definitely up there,” Maye said. “It’s a school I definitely considered.”
Maye had 11 of North Carolina’s first 14 points. By the end, he grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds.
“I know how badly they wanted Luke,” Williams said of Davidson. “I wanted Luke. ... You just have to do a better job (in recruiting) and get lucky.”
Maye had secured his fourth double-double of the season by halftime.
Kenny Williams added 12 points for the Tar Heels (7-1), who might have benefitted at times from a pro-North Carolina crowd despite Davidson’s rowdy student section in this neutral-court setting.
Berry limped off at the 5:14 mark shortly after a drive to the lane for a basket. He pointed to his left knee and then left the bench area for a further examination. He returned with 3:49 left.
Peyton Aldridge’s 22 points, Jon Axel Gudmundsson’s 19 points and Kellan Grady’s 18 paced Davidson (3-3), which finished with 14 3-pointers.
North Carolina held a huge rebounding advantage.
“The glaring statistic that stands out is 54 to 23,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop of the rebounding. “I thought they dominated us in 50-50 balls as well. You can’t quite get over that.”
The Tar Heels didn’t have much breathing room until reserve forward Sterling Manley scored six straight points and Theo Pinson converted a three-point play at the 9:24 mark. Pinson followed that with a driving layup for a 69-55 lead, capping an 11-1 run.
North Carolina held a 43-37 halftime lead, though the Wildcats had several strong stretches.
“Davidson is really hard for us to play,” Roy Williams said. “We like to play two (post players), but it’s hard to do that against that team.”
Davidson, which entered the game averaging a national-leading 13.8 baskets from 3-point range per game, drained seven long-range shots in the first half.
Aldridge opened the second half with a 3-pointer.
But Berry and Maye were consistent on the offensive end, preventing the Wildcats from grabbing the lead in the second half.
For Maye, he said he didn’t want to make a big deal about playing here.
“It was definitely great to be back home where I grew up watching Hornets games and going to Davidson games,” Maye said. “I just want to play my game and be myself.”
Davidson couldn’t overcome North Carolina’s power in the interior, with the Tar Heels credited with 48 points in the paint.
“Anytime they seemed to miss, they were right there for an offensive rebound,” Aldridge said.
Pinson picked up his third foul with 4:23 remaining in the first half as he reached for an offensive rebound.
North Carolina’s Brandon Robinson, a sophomore reserve guard, had eight first-half points to give him a career high.
Davidson guard Rusty Reigel, a senior from Charlotte, fouled out with 4:41 to play.
NOTES: North Carolina is 173-18 in games played in Charlotte, which is about a 2 1/2-hour drive from its campus in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels also defeated Davidson here three years ago. ... Davidson is 1-6 all-time in the Spectrum Center, which is home to the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. All those games have come against Atlantic Coast Conference members. ... North Carolina backup G Seventh Woods was in a walking boot and he’s expected to miss at least a couple of games with a foot injury. ... North Carolina returns home for Sunday’s game against Tulane. ... Davidson is off until Tuesday night’s home game against Virginia Military Institute.