When North Carolina’s coaches showed the team the scouting report and film from last season’s shocking 79-75 loss to Wofford on Monday, Kenny Williams kept noticing the same thing over and over.
Wofford’s Fletcher MaGee, who finished that game with 27 points, was making shot after shot. What bothered Williams most was that the person guarding MaGee as he made those shots, was Williams.
Then he remembered how guys were teasing him over the summer saying that MaGee “went off on him.”
“I got pissed,” Williams, a senior guard, said of seeing the film. “He’s a great player, he’s a great shooter, but I took it personally if he scored at all. I knew he would get his shots and make some, but if I could, I wanted to hold him to zero as long as I could.”
From the beginning of the game it was apparent that Williams had made his matchup with MaGee personal. The 6-4, 200-pound MaGee tried to run off screens and get open, but every time he touched the ball, Williams, who is 6-4, 185 pounds, was there in his face.
“I wanted to make every shot as tough as possible,” Williams said.
He did. And it had a direct impact on the game’s result. UNC (1-0) beat Wofford (0-1) 78-67 on Tuesday night at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Arena in its season opener.
MaGee, who averaged 22 points last season, missed his first seven shots. During that span, MaGee also had two turnovers. He did not hit his first shot until 3:56 left in the first half.
MaGee finished the game with 21 points, but he did not shoot well. He was 3-for-16 from behind the 3-point line, and 7-for-23 overall. Williams’ defense on MaGee was a spark for the Tar Heels. The rest of the team’s defense seemed to pick up as well.
The Terriers struggled most of the game, shooting 25 percent from 3, and 38 percent from the floor overall.
“Kenny Williams, to me, was the story of the game,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “He chased Fletcher all night long, and that’s hard to do.”
Williams had zero points, but his defensive output outweighed his lack of scoring. He also had five assists and six rebounds.
Williams has been UNC’s best perimeter defender over the last two seasons. But in October at UNC’s media day, Roy Williams said Kenny Williams was even better defensively this year, than he was last year. On Tuesday, his improvement on defense showed.
“The biggest player on our team tonight was Kenny by far,” senior forward Luke Maye, who had game-high 24 on Tuesday, said. “And I feel like what he did on Fletcher is incredibly tough to do. And give all the credit to him for how hard he works and how hard he takes people out of what they want to do.”
Maye said it was fun to watch Williams take Fletcher out of the game.
“Cam and I put the ball in the hole a little bit, but I mean Kenny did an unbelievable job and he’s the real reason we won this game,” Maye said.