"If I had to say so, I think it probably did," Sean May said, when asked whether avenging the senior leader's injury in last year's gamefactored into the game. "When I was at home thinking about the game I was remembering they knocked Jawad out. Those guys like to run up under people and they are a real physical team. But you can't blame them because that's the way the game is supposed to be played."
From the outset, the Heels went to work on the defensive end, breaking out the "Carolina Scramble" and running out to a 19-3 lead in the game's opening five and a half minutes.
"I told them I wanted to set the tempo with our defense right off the bat," North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said postgame. "They were hurt being without their regular point guard and that was a major factor in the game. Our pressure was able to create – our second basket by Jackie [Manuel] was off a steal and then we got another turnover right after that. If you have one or two runs like that, if you're a good team, the other team can't overcome it."
Despite missing starting point guard John Goldsberry, the Seahawks did not fade away after Carolina's initial onslaught and Ed Spencer's three pointer with 8:11 cut the light blue margin to 12, 31-19. That would be as close to the Heels' sister school by the sea would get.
Following an official timeout at the 7:55 mark, Carolina rolled out on a 35-11 run to end the first half. At the break, Carolina would lead 54-30 to the delight of the head coach.
"I was extremely pleased with the way we played in the first half – very focused and the best we've been this year at sharing the basketball – 18 baskets, 17 assists," Coach Williams said of the opening stanza. "It was the intention of our team to do that. I was really pleased with that part of it. We defended, caused some turnovers. They were averaging 11 turnovers per game and they had 12 in the first half."
With Jawad Williams dropping his seven-straight points for the Heels and Sean May scoring eight of his 16 over the following six minutes, Carolina pushed the margin to the largest of the night, 78-41. But UNCW wouldn't go down without a fight, almost literally.
During the Tar Heel run, May and Seahawk forward Mitch Laue tangled in the post and then traded words heading down the court, prompting a double technical call. Two minutes later, Melvin Scott picked up a technical for "saying something" according to the official explanation to Coach Williams.
"I was very disappointed with the way we reacted in the second half," Coach Williams said of the technical fouls. "First time in my career I can remember three of my players getting technical fouls. I spent a few extra minutes talking to the team about being disappointed in that. Some of them were unusual. I'm going to watch the tape closer to see if I can make some assessments about what our guys did before we decide how much we're going to run. We can't get caught up in those things, we're supposed to focus on playing basketball."
The third and most unusual technical call came on freshman Marvin Williams with 6:13 left in the game. After the call, Coach Williams spent the time it took Wilmington's T.J. Carter to shoot two free throws to check out the Smith Center video boards to get a better look at what transpired. The Tar Heel coach clearly did not like what he saw, promptly called his own timeout to let the officials hear his opinion of their performance.
Drawing from Coach Williams' ire, the Smith Center crowd of 19,989 came alive and roared with approval. With the crowd in mid-season form, the Heels kept the Seahawks at bay and though the Seahawks continued the scrappy, physical play, reserve Charlie Everett's three gave the Heels the final 21-point margin.
With Jawad Williams unavailable to comment post game because he bit his tongue in the closing minutes, the affable May gladly spoke on the importance of the senior's play over the first eleven games of the season.
"Oh man. He played unbelievable to me," May said of his teammate, "I think he's leading the ACC in field goal percentage. He's shooting well from three. He's not taking bad shots and he's not looking for his shot. He's just playing. I think Ray [Felton] and Rashad [McCants] are doing a great job finding him. He's playing well with his back to the basket.
"Like I've said, he's a guy that's going to slip under the radar. Not a lot of people are going to talk about him. They talk about me, Ray and Rashad. Jawad, to me is playing better than any of us."
* Raymond Felton finished with 10 assists, as the Heels finished with 28 assists on 30 baskets for the night. Felton was 4-of-4 on three-point attempts, and has connected on nine three-pointers in a row.