Cool hand Luke: Maye leads No. 9 UNC to victory
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It was quite an eventful night for North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who reached a milestone in a rather ideal manner.
The ninth-ranked Tar Heels had a strong finishing touch, withstanding a second-half threat from Bucknell to win 93-81 on Wednesday night at the Smith Center.
“We had five guys in double figures, so it was a good team win,” said Williams, who notched his 400th victory while in charge of the Tar Heels.
Luke Maye scored 20 points, while the game marked the first action of the season for North Carolina senior guard Joel Berry, who tallied eight points on 1-for-11 shooting from the field.
“I thought he was really good,” Williams said. “I halfway expected that (rough shooting), but when he made that first one I thought maybe I was wrong. ... Played 30 minutes, but I’m mad at myself that I played him so much.”
Williams, who was honored in a brief postgame ceremony, is 400-115 in 15 seasons at North Carolina, including 200-27 in the Smith Center. Williams is 818-216 overall in 30 seasons.
“He’s the reason I came here because I believe in him,” Berry said of his coach.
Maye led the Tar Heels (2-0) in scoring for the second game in a row. Theo Pinson racked up 19 points, freshman forward Sterling Manley provided 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Garrison Brooks and Kenny Williams both chipped in 10 points for North Carolina.
Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland poured in 21 points apiece for Bucknell (0-3). Stephen Brown had 11 points.
“I thought they made a few more plays than us, unfortunately,” Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said.
Berry, who was out with a broken bone in his right hand after slamming it against a door following a video game with a teammate and team manager last month, was in the starting lineup. The 2017 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player received a rousing ovation.
Berry hit his first shot, a 3-pointer from the left wing.
The Tar Heels used a 9-2 run to build a 32-22 lead, stretching the edge to 16.
Aided by a 26-10 first-half rebounding advantage, the Tar Heels held a 50-41 halftime lead.
The Bison trailed 56-53, but the Tar Heels entered the 1-and-1 free-throw bonus with 14:18 to play.
Still, Bucknell stuck with it, pulling within 59-58 and missing a potential go-ahead shot with less than 13 minutes left.
“We weren’t nearly as good defensively as we need to be, but we made enough plays,” Roy Williams said.
Davis said the Bison played crisp stretches.
“I thought we had great focus the last few days,” he said of his team’s preparation.
The Tar Heels made 25 of 33 free throws compared to Bucknell’s 12-for-18 from the line.
Maye, a junior forward, also added nine rebounds.
“We commented on how much better he was,” Davis said of the scouting report.
Earlier in the day, North Carolina swingman Cameron Johnson, a graduate transfer from Pittsburgh, underwent surgery on a torn meniscus. He’s expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks after sustaining the injury in practice Monday. Johnson also missed last week’s opener because of a sprained neck.
NOTES: This was the first meeting between the teams. ... This was an on-campus game as part of the PK80, a Nike-sponsored event to honor Phil Knight. ... Bucknell had never faced a reigning national champion. ... The Tar Heels hadn’t taken on a Patriot League team since exactly four years earlier when defeating Holy Cross. ... North Carolina was without sophomore G Brandon Robinson, who sustained a sprained right shoulder in the opener against Northern Iowa. ... Bucknell plays its fourth road game in as many outings when it visits Maryland on Saturday. ... North Carolina is back in action Monday night at Stanford.