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Joel Berry II and Luke Maye star in Charlotte as UNC defeats Davidson, 85-75

Luke Maye dunk Davidson

Forward Luke Maye (32) dunks against Davidson on Friday in the Spectrum Center in Charlotte. 

CHARLOTTE — In their first career games against Davidson, Joel Berry II and Luke Maye both scored zero points.

Berry’s came on Nov. 22, 2014. Then a first-year guard backing up Marcus Paige and Nate Britt, he played six minutes and took and missed one 3-pointer in a 90-72 win.

Maye’s came on Dec. 6, 2015. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Joel James all played more than him, but the forward managed to sneak in for 10 minutes of a comfortable 98-65 victory. He went 0-4 from the field.

But Friday night’s 85-75 win against the Wildcats — the third time Berry and Maye have played Davidson in their careers — showed just how far the two players have come.

Berry led the team in scoring with 27 points, just two off his season high set at Stanford on Nov. 20. The senior guard created offense for UNC all night, be it on a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer or a hard drive to the basket with his right hand.

Head coach Roy Williams complimented Berry’s aggressiveness and free-throw shooting above all else. Berry shot 7-7 from the line, which bumped him up to a career 81.4 percent from the line. That number ranks 17th in school history among players with 50 or more attempts.

And although Williams wasn’t ecstatic about Berry’s 4-11 shooting from 3-point range, he admitted the bail-outs were needed. When a possession stagnated, the ball found its way into Berry’s hands more times than not.

“I called a set play for Joel, one across to the bench in the dead corner,” Williams said. “The shot clock was running down. The guy really challenged the shot. Joel made a heck of a shot. Sometimes, the ball just goes in.”

Guard Joel Berry II (2) takes a 3-pointer against Davidson on Friday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte. 

With his four made 3-pointers, Berry passed Reggie Bullock (188) for the ninth most in UNC history. He now sits at 191 and will likely pass both Dante Calabria (193) and current assistant coach Hubert Davis (197) in the next few games.

The only other Tar Heel to make a 3-pointer on Friday night was Maye. He shot just twice from outside and spent most of his time in the paint and running the floor in the 35 minutes he played. All of that equated to 24 points — the fourth time in the last five games he’s reached that mark.

The junior has already broken his career high in points twice this season, and he can now say the same for rebounds. Maye entered this season with a career-high of 15 boards, broke that with 16 against Arkansas and recorded 17 against Davidson. And it could have been 19.

“I gave up two rebounds in the first half,” he explained afterward, a hint of frustration in his voice. “That’s not like me.”

The game, which was played in the Charlotte Hornets’ home arena about 30 minutes from Davidson’s campus, was a homecoming for Maye, too. He grew up in nearby Huntersville, N.C., and went to the Wildcats’ games, summer camps and even some practices. In high school, UNC and Davidson both locked onto him as a prime recruit.

“Nobody recruited him as much as I did,” Davidson head coach Bob McKillop said. “You can ask him that. I spent more time recruiting that young man than a lot of players. I thought he could have been a star for us. He’s clearly a star for North Carolina. He’s sensational, and I’m very happy for him. He’s a wonderful young man.”

Williams confirmed this minutes later in his own press conference. His opening statement, which usually covers the stats he likes and the ones he doesn’t, began with an acknowledgement.

“The only guy that wanted Luke Maye as best as me was Bob McKillop,” he said. “Needless to say, I’m very fortunate that he said yes to us.”

This season, Maye is averaging 20.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game on 55.4 percent shooting. His 165 total points are the most through eight games for any Tar Heel since Tyler Hansbrough's 171 in 2007-08. His parents, Mark and Aimée, were in the crowd to watch their son play against the school he almost attended.

“I had six tickets, but then I had so many friends text me, coaches text me, ask for tickets,” Maye said. “I just couldn’t help all of them, but I had a lot of friends … I’m very thankful for all the supporters that have been with me since Day One.”

The matchup between UNC and Davidson was the eighth since Williams took over in 2003. The teams have now played in five consecutive years, with North Carolina winning each time. And Berry and Maye have upped their scoring in each game.

Berry, whose first game against the Wildcats was also in Charlotte, scored 11 against them as a sophomore in 2015 before missing the 2016 game with a sprained left ankle. Maye logged 10 points as a sophomore in the 2016 win.

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Yes, it’s just a non-conference series against an Atlantic 10 opponent. But Berry and Maye’s numbers — from zero points against Davidson as first-years to 60 percent of UNC’s points on Friday — give a brief glimpse of what they’ve become for this 2017 team: its two unquestioned leaders and stars.