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Tar Heels bounce back with ACC home win over Boston College

Roy Williams after win over Boston College: 'Luke was sensational'

Luke Maye scores a career-high 32 points and collects 18 rebounds in the Tar Heels’ victory over Boston College.
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Luke Maye scores a career-high 32 points and collects 18 rebounds in the Tar Heels’ victory over Boston College.

That’s more like it.

North Carolina played the way it wants to play, and looked good doing it, in a 96-66 win over Boston College on Tuesday night.

The 20th-ranked Tar Heels (13-4, 2-2 ACC) were more aggressive on offense and had more players involved. Junior forward Luke Maye led the way with 32 points and 18 rebounds — both career highs — as UNC evened its ACC record at 2-2 and won its 11th straight game over the Eagles (11-6, 2-3 ACC).

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North Carolina’s Luke Maye (32) puts up a shot over Boston College’s Ky Bowman (0) during the first half on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Back-to-back conference losses to Florida State and Virginia left the Heels out of sync and searching for answers on offense. Maye, Cameron Johnson (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Theo Pinson (eight points, eight rebounds, five assists) provided a few.

“Other than a couple of stretches there, I thought we played very, very well,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “We shot the ball really well early. We attacked them early. We got some points in transition early. We got some offensive rebounds early.”

The fast start — Maye had eight points in the first 4 minutes and keyed an early 13-2 run which gave the Tar Heels some breathing room — carried over the whole first half and then into the second half.

UNC finished with a 58 to 23 rebounding advantage, had 20 assists on 39 field goals and after getting shutout in transition at Virginia had 19 fastbreak points. In those ACC losses, the ball stagnated and there was guard Joel Berry doing a lot of the scoring and everyone else doing a lot of watching.

Berry, who had averaged 20.3 points in the first three ACC games, actually came out cold (1 of 7 in the first half) but finished with 13 points. And even though Maye finished with 32 points, there was more balance and movement than the previous three games.

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North Carolina’s Joel Berry II (2) break through the Boston College defense during the first half on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Guards Ky Bowman (21 points) and Jerome Robinson (15) tried to keep the Eagles in the game but they couldn’t repeat their upset of Duke from earlier in the season. Maye wouldn’t let them. His stepback 3 at 2:16 in the first half gave the Heels a 45-29 lead. He scored the last five points of the first half for good measure.

It was the kind of performance Maye turned in regularly to start the season but had not been able to conjure in ACC play. The junior forward scored six points in Saturday’s 61-49 loss at Virginia.

“The last couple of games I have kind of gotten down on myself but I haven’t been the same person,” Maye said. “I really came out and wanted to — no matter if I made 12 or missed 12 — play the same way. I kept telling myself to continue to work hard.”

Maye did just that with the first 30-point, 15-rebound effort by a UNC player at the Smith Center since Antawn Jamison did it on Feb. 14, 1998. Maye seemed energized by Williams’ decision to go with a new starting lineup.

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North Carolina coach Roy Williams instructs Cameron Johnson (13) during the first half against Boston College on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

The whole lineup — Berry, Kenny Williams, Johnson, Pinson and Maye — was more aggressive and played with more juice. Pinson, who also had been struggling, had a drive and over-the-shoulder pass to Maye for an easy lay-in at 8:04 in the first half.

Johnson, who has been trying to find his niche, had then a beautiful drive-and-dish to freshman forward Garrison Brooks for a dunk. Johnson finished five assists in his first start for UNC and a season-high 32 minutes.

Pinson also was aggressive in the second half with a drive and assist to freshman forward Sterling Manley for a dunk and three-point play to put UNC up 79-55 at 10:35.

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North Carolina’s Theo Pinson (1) defends Boston College’s Ky Bowman (0) during the first half against Boston College on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Two minutes later, Pinson drove baseline kept the ball for himself and hit a pull-up hook shot for an 84-61 advantage.

“We played well and everyone contributed,” Pinson said. “It was a complete team effort.”

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

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