In his absence, Maye took over as the leading man, finishing with a team-high 30 points and 15 rebounds in his last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He became the second player in college basketball history with a 30-point, 15-rebound performance over the AP No. 1 team in the country, and the first since Houston's Elvin Hayes.
Maye's supporting cast, fellow frontcourt members Johnson and Brooks, contributed 26 and 14 points respectively, as the Tar Heels (21-5, 11-2 ACC) weathered a raucous crowd that was ready to see the Blue Devils (23-3, 11-2 ACC) put on a show.
UNC quickly mounted a lead early in the game that gave the team plenty of breathing room, getting bucket after bucket in the paint with Williamson out of the game. By the time the first half was over, the Tar Heels had scored 34 of their 42 points in the paint and the Blue Devils had no answer, shuffling through a cast of big men that was unable to stop the North Carolina forwards. Maye alone had 18 points before halftime, four more than the combined 14 he scored in the previous two games against Virginia and Wake Forest.
"I think every game is different," Maye said. "We won against Wake, and it was tough against Virginia, but I thought we rebounded well and it's not all about the points."
Yet it was all about the points coming from the frontcourt members on a night where first-year guard Coby White struggled to ever find a rhythm — he finished with nine points on 3-14 shooting. White wasn't the only non frontcourt player who struggled. As a team, UNC shot just 2-20 from beyond the arc and Duke wasn't much better, checking in at 8 of 39 from 3-point range.
"We weren’t making shots and we were getting those early, so it was a big-time emphasis of ours to get it in there and score," Johnson said.
Williamson’s departure, which made it easy for Maye, Johnson and Brooks to attack the basket, only grew more obvious in that second half as the remaining Blue Devils were tasked with finishing out the game.
But the players on the court for Duke continued to watch helplessly as the less vaunted Tar Heel frontcourt picked them apart. Brooks, Johnson and Maye scored 32 more points in the second half to give them 70 on the night. As a team, North Carolina finished with 62 points in the paint, the most by UNC since a win over Tennessee Tech on Nov. 16.
With 4:35 left in the game, Maye hit the 30-point mark for just the second time this season to seal the team's biggest win at Duke since March 3, 2012.
"That 30 points meant a whole lot," Johnson said. "Buckets when we really needed them. A lot of effort out there. A lot of intensity and I’m really proud of him.”
And after the final buzzer sounded and the players walked off the court, the reporters who normally might have swarmed Williamson were in the visiting locker room.
They surrounded Maye, who sat calmly in a foldable chair in the center of the locker room even as he seemed to want to avoid the spotlight on a night that he and his fellow frontcourt mates stole the show.
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