CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Two of No. 13 North Carolina’s best shooting performances have come in a five-day span. For the Tar Heels, it all starts at the other end of the court.
Luke Maye had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and North Carolina routed Tulane 97-73 on Sunday.
Kenny Williams and Joel Berry II finished with 13 points apiece to help the Tar Heels (8-1) win their third straight.
The defending national champions shot a season-best 65.5 percent and hit nearly 68 percent during their best-shooting half of the season, helping them put this one away by halftime.
Coach Roy Williams called it “maybe our best defensive half of the year,” but his team was pretty strong on offense, too, building a permanent double-figure lead before missing a shot from anywhere — either the field or the free-throw line.
Tulane shot 37.7 percent — a fraction of a percentage point better than Arkansas had in UNC’s best defensive performance of the season, on Nov. 24 in Portland, Oregon, in the PK80 Invitational.
“That was the key that (Williams) put on the board: Let this be our best defensive game all year,” forward Theo Pinson said. “We knew we had to be locked in defensively, and once we got after them, we had control.”
Melvin Frazier scored 27 points and Cameron Reynolds finished with 18 for Tulane (6-2). The Green Wave, who hadn’t allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent before this, had no defensive answers in losing twice in three games after starting 5-0.
North Carolina dominated virtually every line on the final box score. The Tar Heels never trailed, built a 45-26 rebounding advantage, scored 62 points in the paint and blocked nine shots to Tulane’s one.
Tulane: Coach Mike Dunleavy’s team has made progress, already matching its victory total from 2016-17 against what to this point has been a navigable schedule. But the Tar Heels — their first top-100 opponent in the Ken Pomeroy efficiency ratings — gave them a reality check and easily dropped them to 0-2 in true road games.
“Obviously, they’re NCAA champions and today they played like a team that has that pedigree,” Dunleavy said. “I was really disappointed … (and) thought we were further along, that we made more progress.”
North Carolina: The Tar Heels certainly looked like themselves again, putting together a third victory in five days after No. 3 Michigan State embarrassed them in the PK80 a week earlier. North Carolina has scored at least 85 points in every game but one — that cold-shooting loss to the Spartans — and had no trouble hitting that mark against the outmanned Green Wave. Since the Tar Heels shot a program-record-low 24.5 percent against the Spartans, they shot a then-season-best 54.8 percent against Michigan and 47 percent against Davidson. Now this.
At the very least, the Green Wave came up with the play of the day. Frazier blew by Brandon Robinson with a behind-the-back dribble, then took off down the lane and posterized Maye with a vicious tomahawk slam. Though it was pretty, it only pulled Tulane to 23-8 with 12 minutes before halftime.
Maye finished with a career-high four blocked shots. It’s the junior’s third straight game in which he set a career best in at least one stat category. “It’s not coaching. It’s sweat,” coach Roy Williams said. “Luke Maye’s been willing to put in an amount of sweat that very few players have ever done.”
HE SAID IT
“Looks good now, doesn’t it?” — Roy Williams, on North Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class that included Maye and Kenny Williams. The class was ranked 10th in the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference.
Tulane: Plays host to Southern on Wednesday.
North Carolina: Plays host to Western Carolina on Wednesday night.