UNC Basketball: Kenny Williams helps Tar Heels get past Volunteers on the road

KNOXVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 17: Kenny Williams
KNOXVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 17: Kenny Williams /

Kenny Williams helps the Tar Heels escape Tennessee with a big non-conference road win

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty but the North Carolina Tar Heels escaped Knoxville with a big non-conference win added to their resume.

The Tar Heels barely led in the game, grabbing a 3-2 lead early and then trailing until the final minute of the game when it mattered the most.

UNC trailed 70-67 with 1:12 left in the game before they rallied. After Joel Berry drilled two free throws, the Tar Heels were able to force a turnover on the inbounds play with some pressure.

From there, Luke Maye got the steal and then the dagger came from junior guard Kenny Williams who hit a three-pointer with just 33 seconds left in the game to give the Tar Heels a 72-70 lead.

UNC would drain six-straight field goals to seal it and escape with a 78-73 non-conference win.

The Tar Heels defense was stout in the final 10 minutes or so of the second half. Tennessee made missed 16-of-19 attempts from the field in the final 9 minutes of the game.

One of those 16 made shots came on a three-pointer late to cut the deficit to three with under 20 seconds left.

It was a struggle for UNC early on as Tennessee’s defense created some problems. UNC had about 9 turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game, struggling to keep control of the ball.

The Tar Heels committed 16 turnovers on the game and just didn’t look ready to play. But they fixed things and played well on the defensive end to escape with a much-needed win.

The senior Berry led the way for the Tar Heels scoring 21 points in the game, including the first six early on.

Berry was 7-of-19 from the field but was fantastic late for UNC, helping them take the lead and hold on for good.

Williams scored 15 points including that big bucket late. Fellow junior Luke Maye also scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the win.

Player of the Game

While Berry led the Tar Heels with 21 points in the game, today’s POTG has to go to the junior Williams.

His big shot gave the Tar Heels the lead for good and was clutch. It’s a shot that shows just how much Williams has improved since last season, especially with his confidence.

Next: UNC's Junior class is coming up big this season

It’s hard to imagine Williams taking that shot as a freshman or sophomore with UNC. But now he has all the confidence in the world and is playing very well early on.

Notable Stat

1:22. That’s how long the Tar Heels led in the game. They had a lead at 3-2 and then two leads in the second half.

What’s next?

The Tar Heels return home to take on Wofford this Wednesday in their second-to-last non-conference game of the year. They then head to New Orleans to play Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic.