That’s why, coming off of a less-than-impressive performance, it was important for White and his team that the first-year guard come out firing against N.C. State. And come out firing, he did.
White was aggressive from the opening tip, tallying 14 points in the first half on 2 of 5 from 3-point range. That number led the Tar Heels in the first period, and was key to a 56-40 halftime lead for North Carolina.
In the second period, with most of the heavy lifting done, White cruised in a half when the Tar Heel lead ballooned to as much as 28.
For the majority of UNC’s conference season, the guard has been stellar, averaging 16.4 points on 46.5 percent shooting, and a 35.7 percent mark from beyond the arc entering the rematch against the Wolfpack. Still, if you ask his teammates, those rare underwhelming performances are what drive him.
“He’s what I call a go-getter,” sophomore forward Garrison Brooks said. “He might have a tough game, but you always know he’s going to bounce back, because that’s the kind of competitor he is, and that’s the kind of guy he is.”
White didn’t have to go at it alone, however. Senior forward Luke Maye led North Carolina with 31 points and 12 rebounds. Maye clearly relishes playing the Wolfpack – in four career games as a starter against N.C. State, he has averaged 29 points and 13 rebounds. In the first matchup of the season, a 90-82 UNC victory, Maye also led the Tar Heels in scoring, tallying 21 points and 11 rebounds.
All told, five Tar Heels reached double digits – White, Maye, graduate guard Cameron Johnson, senior guard Kenny Williams and first-year forward Nassir Little. Johnson and Williams both chipped in 17 points, while Little came off the bench to add 12 points of his own.
All benefited from the defensive attention necessitated by White, who has made himself known as one of the Tar Heels’ most dynamic talents. White has proven his worth as one of North Carolina’s crucial cogs, and he will likely be instrumental to any of UNC's postseason hopes.
Head coach Roy Williams, however, isn't satisfied. In fact, he expects further improvement.
“He’s a better shooter than 6-16 and 2-5 (from three),” Williams said. “He’s still a freshman academically, but by the time you’ve played 22 games, you’re more experienced. So I expect him to keep getting better.”
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