North Carolina’s 33-point man exited the locker room and settled into what’s become his self-proclaimed spot in the Smith Center players’ lounge: propped up in the far left corner, sitting on a long table used for catering, with a wall of blue tile behind him.
Coby White wore a long-sleeved white T-shirt, a gold necklace, black sweats and unlaced low-top Nikes. He and everyone else in the room knew he’d be a hot commodity postgame, after willing the Tar Heels — at times, singlehandedly — to an 88-85 overtime win over Miami.
One of the first questions posed to White, once he’d boosted himself up into his corner, was how it felt to be "the guy" — especially in the second half, when he had 23 points and made six 3-pointers alone.
“I’m pretty confident, man,” White said. “We’ve got plenty of guys that can be the guy, you know … Today was just my day. I got into a rhythm — a good rhythm.”
He may have not have indulged in his performance, but everyone else who saw it did. After each game, UNC’s athletic communications staff sends out a list of postgame notes. The subject line of Saturday’s email came with a warning: “Carolina postgame notes, lots of Roy, Coby...”
White’s stat line of 33 points and six assists had only happened three times before in UNC basketball history, replicated twice by Charlie Scott and once by Joseph Forte. He became the second first-year to score over 30 twice in a season, and the first to score 33 twice (he also did so against Texas).
“If you can score, you can score,” head coach Roy Williams said. “And the guy did score more points than anyone in the history of (North Carolina) high school basketball, so it’s not a real surprise.”
“Coby hit every shot we needed him to hit,” guard Kenny Williams said. “I don’t even know, man. That was huge.”
“Yeah, definitely,” guard Cameron Johnson said, when asked if White’s scoring gave him any comfort as UNC trailed late. “Seven for 10 from three, 11 for 16 from the field? That's a lot of comfort right there, I'll tell you that.”
The point guard’s career day began with three turnovers in the first six minutes. When he subbed out soon after, Roy Williams said he made sure White sat right next to him. The message during that visit, as recalled by White: “Don’t turn the stinkin’ ball over.”
He had just eight points at halftime, as UNC held a slim 31-30 lead. But once play resumed, White poured in eight more points — a midrange jumper, an and-one layup, a 3-pointer off a play called B1 — in five minutes. That three at the 15:28 mark gave him an indication that he might be in for a strong second half.
“He was kind of playing off me, so I shot it,” White said. “I feel like that one started it for me. I just had to see one go in clean.”
By game’s end, he’d score 17 more. The Hurricanes held their largest lead of the game at the 7:34 mark, when 5-foot-7 guard Chris Lykes sank a 3-pointer to make it 61-54.
White immediately countered with a three of his own. Soon after, two more to give UNC a lead of 68-66. Then he was playing catch up, sinking two more 3-pointers to cut into Miami’s late lead. In all, he made six threes in the second half.
For all the scoring he did, White also assisted on Luke Maye’s game-tying three with 10.2 seconds left. On an earlier possession, Kenny Williams noticed that, when White called for a pick from Maye, both Miami defenders swarmed the guard.
So on UNC’s last possession of regulation, trailing 77-74, White kept that in mind. Maye set him a high pick on a play labeled a dribble spinout. Sure enough, Miami’s Lykes and Anthony Lawrence II started to double-team White. He sent the ball back to Maye, wide open on the right wing, for a swish.
“There was no doubt he was going to miss it, in my head,” White said.
Two of White’s six assists came in overtime, on passes to Garrison Brooks for a dunk and Kenny Williams for a three. He also made two free throws that gave UNC an 84-79 lead. On Miami’s final possession, when a loose ball prevented the Hurricanes from getting a shot off, White was credited with the steal.
And, to Roy Williams’ delight, he never turned the ball over again. After the game, the head coach gave White the title of the best scoring point guard he’s ever coached: above Ty Lawson, Marcus Paige, Joel Berry II, Raymond Felton and others.
“Appreciate it,” White said, when that information was relayed to him minutes later. “I ain't, though.”
He had no plans to watch Saturday’s game over again. In fact, he said he’s never watched a TV broadcast of himself once. That might have something to do with his preference for streaming — specifically, “The Flash” on Netflix — over cable.
White didn’t have any postgame celebrations in mind, either. Probably back to his dorm for a couple hours of sleep. Probably some "Fortnite" later, even though he admitted Nassir Little and Ryan McAdoo “carry” Leaky Black and him in the online video game most of the time.
But would today’s performance — over a third of UNC’s points, constant heat checks and a win that pushed UNC to 9-1 in ACC play — make up for the "Fortnite" issues?
“Yeah,” White laughed. “I hope so.”
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