SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Roy Williams frequently criticizes one of his player’s inability to get a rebound by comparing him to his wife, Wanda. As in, “Brice Johnson needs to do a better job going to the boards. He got as many rebounds as Wanda.”
On Tuesday night, in UNC’s season-opening 78-67 win at Wofford, senior captain Kenny Williams had as many points as Wanda, but Coach Williams seemed happy with his play.
“Kenny Williams, to me, was the story of the game,” Roy Williams said.
Williams, who averaged 11.4 points per game last year, was scoreless, missing all three of his shots from the field. His coach didn’t care about the point total, however. It was the defense he played on Wofford sharpshooter Fletcher Magee that stood out for him.
Magee, the Southern Conference Player of the Year, led the nation in 3-pointers last year. UNC got a first-hand look at him as he scored 27 points to lead Wofford’s upset of the Tar Heels at the Smith Center last December.
In the rematch, with Williams hounding him much of the night, Magee scored 21 points on 23 shots but hit just 3-of-16 from long range.
“He chased Fletcher Magee around the whole game,” coach Williams said of player Williams. The senior also had six rebounds and a team-high five assists.
Even with Magee missing from the outside, Wofford still put a scare in the Tar Heels, wiping out a double-digit lead with a 14-4 second-half run and tying the score at 46 with 10:37 to play.
That’s when the seniors that did outscore Wanda stepped up.
Cameron Johnson hit a 3-pointer to put Carolina back on top. One minute later, he hit another to put UNC up six.
Luke Maye was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws, after which Johnson knocked down another trey to put the Heels up by nine.
“They never got it down to one or two possessions again,” Williams said of Wofford.
Maye led the Heels with 24 points. Johnson had a game-high five 3-three pointers. His eight rebounds led the team, and he added 17 points.
Sophomore Garrison Brooks was a force inside for the Tar Heels, scoring a career-high 20 points.
“Garrison — there’s a reason he started,” Williams said. “Because he’s played the best (of the three sophomore big men.) He’s the most dependable. He kept us in the game in the first half.”
The game also marked the debut of UNC’s three high-profile freshmen. Coby White started at point guard, but, admittedly, he struggled with nerves, finishing with eight points. Nassir Little added seven points, and Leaky Black was scoreless in nine minutes.
There will be more opportunities to showcase the freshmen in blowouts to come, but the Heels managed to open the season with a double-digit win on the road, against a team that beat them last season.
“I thought defensively, we were pretty consistent the whole game,” Williams said. “We moved better on offense. The story of the game to me was Garrison, Kenny’s defense and Cam making those big shots during that stretch run.”
And, of course, Kenny Williams — and Wanda’s — scoreless nights.