Everything about Wednesday night’s 86-71 win over Michigan marked a return to normalcy for the North Carolina men’s basketball team.
The Tar Heels arrived in Chapel Hill two days earlier, at 6:30 a.m. All of their success on the 11-day stint — Kenny Williams’ first-half outburst against Stanford, a season-high 102 points against Portland, a 13-0 run to close out Arkansas — had been overshadowed by a Sunday night loss to Michigan State.
“I lay down at 7:15 and woke up at 9 o’clock because it wasn’t doing any good,” head coach Roy Williams said. “Went and got a haircut to see if it would help me. I’m willing to try anything, but I’m not one of those coaches who’s going to say, ‘Oh, it was a bad game. Let’s go on.’”
The team took Monday off. In their film session on Tuesday, Williams and his players spent 45 minutes reviewing the 63-45 loss to Michigan State — and the program worst 24.6 shooting percentage that came with it — before shifting to Michigan tape.
By halftime on Wednesday, UNC was back in its groove.
The No. 13 Tar Heels assisted on 16 of 20 field goals in the first 20 minutes and shot 64.5 percent from the field — a season best for any half. Luke Maye scored 13; Kenny Williams, 11.
By the 17:41 mark, UNC had already made more 3-pointers (two) than it did in the entire Michigan State game (one on 18 attempts). By the 2:13 mark, North Carolina had surpassed its final point total against the Spartans.
The atmosphere was a welcoming one, too. It had been exactly two weeks since UNC’s last home game. During one break, the 1993 national championship team was honored. During another, an entourage including Gov. Roy Cooper and Chancellor Carol Folt rolled out a new highway marker which commemorated UNC’s 2017 title and would be placed at entrances to the state, starting next year.
In postgame interviews, Kenny Williams greeted the reporters gathering around him with a “Great to see y’all” before answering questions. Leaning back in a stool and wearing a white Nike cutoff, he was visibly happy.