Photo: Jawad dunks!
The Tar Heels overcame a sluggish start to shoot 60-percent in the second half and win going away.
“There were bizarre circumstances out there at times,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “But in the second half, we made shots.”
With the win UNC improved to 7-1, finishing undefeated against CAA competition this year. The Tar Heels had already knocked off Old Dominion and George Mason.
Seconds into the contest at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, Jawad Williams was felled by an elbow from the Seahawks’ Taylor Lay. He had to be revived on the floor by UNC trainer Mark Davis.
Williams was woozy, but would recover to help carry the load in the paint with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
But at the 17:52 mark when May rolled his ankle and lay on floor twisting in pain, it appeared that the Tar Heels may have traveled to Raymond Felton’s Homecoming Game only to see their season's fortunes potentially come to an end.
Both Williams and May returned later in the first half, with plenty of work left to be done in disposing of the pesky Seahawks.
May would only play a few more minutes before he was done for the day with zero points on 0-for-4 shooting.
“Our medical staff said he was OK to play, but it was not well enough to help us,” Roy Williams said. “Jawad was a little foggy there at the half, but they said he was well enough to play.”
Behind 3-pointers from Rashad McCants and Melvin Scott, the Tar Heels held a 6-4 lead early that would span three timeouts – two officials and one called by UNCW coach Brad Brownell.
UNCW, which came withing a Drew Nicholas buzzer-beater from a monumental upset of Maryland and advancing to the second-round of the NCAA Tournament last season, took a 7-6 lead with 10:06 to play in the first half against UNC.
But Scott then answereed with the second of five 3-point field goals to put Carolina up for good. He led all scorers with 19 points.
This was a game played in front of 6,750. Roy Williams had questioned earlier this year if it should have even been on UNC’s schedule at all. It was apparent immediately following the injuries to May and Williams, the Tar Heels unprecedented visit to the Grand Strand could not end early enough for their veteran head coach.
“I was scared,” May said. “I’ve never had my ankle feel like this. It feels like a pretty bad sprain, but hopefully I’ll be over it in a couple of days. I couldn’t get on my toes and I couldn’t jump well at all.”
There was little available inside for the Tar Heels with May hobbling, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Felton and Scott extended the Tar Heels’ lead to 35-23 at the 14:56 mark of the second half.
The majority of the crowd was made up of Felton-supporters, applauding the Latta, S.C.-native’s every move. His grand finale came on a picture perfect alley-oop offering to Williams, whose dunk put Carolina up 65-47 with a little under two minutes remaining.
Freshman Jesse Holley replaced Felton to a standing ovation with just 1:26 left to play.
“He’s the engine that makes us go,” Williams said. “I was glad that I could get him out of the game after he made to free throws, so the fans could let him know how they felt about him.
“It’s a great day for Raymond,” he said. “I told him at one of the timeouts that the day was made for him, but that we weren’t exactly honoring him and that he wasn’t ready to die or anything…just play basketball like we’ve tried to teach him to play.”
McCants, who struggled in the first half scoring just three points on 1-of-5 shooting, began to take advantage of his athletic mismatches and finished with 14 points. But he was sent to the locker room before the first half ended.
Roy Williams had apparently become upset with McCants for failing to cheer on a play in which his teammates had made an exceptional play.
“I was (asked to leave the bench),” McCants said. “I don’t want to comment on the situation now. The situation is over. That’s past us. If there was a lesson to be learned, I definitely learned it.”
While Carolina managed to run a way from a game UNCW squad in the second half, new questions emerged and old ones resurfaced, as the Tar Heels prepare for Coastal Carolina on Tuesday and top-ranked Kentucky next Saturday. Roy Williams’ thin bench is taking its toll on his immensely talented, but overworked team.
“It was a sloppy game – they had 26 turnovers and we had 20,” Williams said. “A lot of times sloppy play is caused by carelessness or selfishness. Rashad McCants got two turnovers just dribbling the basketball. He had a tough time getting a handle on it.
“They were a very active and physical team, but hopefully we were causing some of the problems that they were having.”