The Tar Heels shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and quickly jumped out to a 14-3 lead. In doing so, they got Kenny Williams going.
After being held to one point between UNC’s opening two games, the senior guard scored five of his team’s first seven points, including a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Williams’ bounce-back performance (12 points, four assists) was one of many highlights offensively for the Tar Heels.
Luke Maye was dominant both from inside and outside, connecting on five of his first six shots from the field. The senior power forward led his team with 14 points at the halftime break, three of which came right before the buzzer to double up the Cardinal, 52-26.
Through the opening 20 minutes, UNC’s core group of seniors – Maye, Williams and Cameron Johnson – had accounted for 32 of UNC’s 52 points, but the Tar Heels received key contributions from its first-years, too.
Leaky Black saw action at point guard at times and scored four points in six first-half minutes, including a two-handed slam dunk after a steal that put UNC up by 15 points, 26-11.
Fresh off a 21-point performance at Elon, highly-touted first-year Nassir Little gave the home faithful a lot to cheer about. There was his willingness to follow his own miss and convert a put-back. A step-back jumper garnered cheers, too.
But the home crowd was most impressed when the first-year dove on the floor for a loose ball and visibly showed emotion after forcing a jump ball. In addition to his hustle, Little’s natural ability also got the Smith Center going, especially when he threw down an alley-oop with authority.
The assist on Little’s slam was provided by Seventh Woods, who came off the bench and and recorded four assists. The junior reserve now has 12 assists on the season, but he also committed three turnovers against the Cardinal.
Apart from a 13-7 run by Stanford to start the second half, UNC excelled defensively. The Cardinal struggled to to get by Tar Heel defenders off the dribble and more times than not could not find good looks near the rim.
Instead, the visitors committed 15 turnovers and only connected on 20-of-45 2-point field goal attempts. Stanford didn’t got to the free throw line until the second half.
As the game wore on, UNC slowed down a bit offensively, but the Cardinal, led in scoring by forward KZ Okpala (16 points), did not come any closer than 15 points in the second half.
Who stood out?
Ten different Tar Heels scored on a night where UNC illustrated how it can threaten opposing defense in numerous ways.
Maye turned in the type of showing many have come to expect of the seasoned vet, as he notched the 37th double-digit scoring performance of his career before the first half ended.
Williams seeing his shot start to fall was undoubtedly a good thing for UNC, too.
Meanwhile, Johnson was effective on both mid-range jumpers and 3-point range, once again offering a reminder of what could come if he remains in good health.
The contributions of Little and Black furthered the notion that this could be a very deep Tar Heel team this season.
Garrison Brooks also turned in his second double-digit scoring performance of the year with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
When was it decided?
Stanford never looked like a serious challenger Monday night, but UNC used a 19-6 run during the final 6:08 of the first half to put the game away.
Why does it matter?
After doing what it was supposed to do on the road during the season’s first week, there were no nerves from UNC in its first home game of the season.
While the Tar Heels will face numerous opponents considerably better than Stanford this season, had a killer instinct against a team from a major conference and showed all of the different ways they can win: in half-court sets, in transition, in the paint, beyond the 3-point line and with their consistently solid defense.
When do they play next?
UNC hosts Tennessee Tech of the Ohio Valley Conference on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. The Golden Eagles are winless with losses to Presbyterian and Memphis, and will face Savannah State on Tuesday before coming to Chapel Hill.
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