UNC Basketball: Luke Maye powers Tar Heels past Northern Iowa

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 03: Luke Maye
GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 03: Luke Maye /

UNC opens up the 2017-18 season with a win over Northern Iowa and a career night for Luke Maye

It was one heck of a season opener for Luke Maye on Friday night.

The junior forward earned the start for the North Carolina Tar Heels and ended up having a career night in the win over Northern Iowa.

Maye scored a career-high 26 points while grabbing 10 rebounds, helping UNC blow past the Panthers 86-69 to open the season.

UNC grabbed a 7-5 lead at the 16:19 mark in the first half and never looked back as they cruised to open the year 1-0.

Going into the year, UNC’s frontcourt was considered a question mark after losing Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley Jr. and Isaiah Hicks to either graduation or the NBA. But after one game, that question mark didn’t look so bad.

In addition to Maye’s 26 points, freshman center Garrison Brooks scored 14 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in his debut. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Panthers 37-29, getting on the glass early in typical UNC fashion.

The Tar Heels cruised in the first half, taking a 45-31 lead into the break after a 8-0 run in the final 3:06 of the game.

Friday’s second half was much of the same as UNC never lost control of the game as Blue Steel came in with just over 4 minutes to go.

After graduate transfer Cam Johnson suffered a neck sprain in practice, head coach Roy Williams had to adjust his starting lineup.

Williams went with a lineup of Jalek Felton, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson, Maye and Brooks marking the first time since 2007 the Tar Heels started two freshman in their season opener.

The lineup worked for the head coach as Kenny Williams scored 10 points, dished out 5 assists and had 3 steals. Williams looked good in his return from a knee injury he suffered over a year ago.

The junior was crisp in his passes and was fantastic on the defensive end. Williams forced 5 turnovers and drew a charge in the game.

That’s a good sign for the Tar Heels defense moving forward.

Player of the Game

This one is a no-brainer.

Maye was fantastic for the Tar Heels on Friday night and it was really nice to see. His 26 points came on 11-of-16 shooting, including going 2-of-3 from behind the three-point line.

He recorded his second career double-double and will have a chance for plenty more as he will start for the Tar Heels this season.

Not only was Maye efficient on the offensive end, he was excellent on the boards.

That’s something UNC will need moving forward as they lost a lot of talent in their frontcourt from last season.

Notable stat

There were a lot to choose from following the game but one really stood out to us.

The Tar Heels finished the game 18-of-21 from the free throw line, good for 85.7 percent at the charity stripe. It’s one game but for a team that was 176th in the nation last season at 70.1 percent, it’s noticeable.

Center Garrison Brooks went 4-for-4 and two of UNC’s misses came from freshman Sterling Manley.

Let’s see if they can continue this moving forward.

What’s next?

The Tar Heels will have a couple of days off before hosting Bucknell on Wednesday in the Dean Dome.

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The injury to Cam Johnson is something to keep an eye on for this game as UNC kept him out of the win over Northern Iowa. Point guard Joel Berry is expected to miss the game with his broken hand.

Next: 5 bold predictions for UNC in 2017-18

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