Luke Maye carries No. 9 North Carolina past Arkansas 87-68
By TIM BOOTH
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Roy Williams was able to find the one flaw in Luke Maye's otherwise nearly spotless performance.
Oh, those turnovers.
"The young man is really, really intelligent and he's finally starting to play basketball with his brain involved too," the North Carolina coach said. "Except for his turnovers."
Maye, who committed five turnovers, had career-highs with 28 points and 16 rebounds, Kenny Williams had 16 of his 19 points in the second half, and No. 9 North Carolina slowed down high-scoring Arkansas beating the Razorbacks 87-68 on Friday in the semifinals of the PK80 Invitational.
The Tar Heels were smothering on the defensive end, holding the Razorbacks under 80 points for the first time this season. The Razorbacks shot just 32 percent in the first half and were dominated on the boards getting outrebounded 46-30.
Maye carried the Tar Heels offensively for the first 25 minutes before Williams and Joel Berry II got going. Maye made 11 of 16 shots and 11 of his rebounds came at the defensive end. Berry was just 3-of-12 shooting, but he made 7 of 8 free throws. Williams took just three shots in the first half, but was 6-of-9 shooting in the second half.
It all added up to another impressive performance by North Carolina and specifically Maye. The Tar Heels (5-0) will face either Michigan State or UConn in the "Victory Bracket" championship game on Sunday night.
"We have so many guys that can score," Maye said. "Theo (Pinson) and Kenny and Joel are all capable of hitting shots, getting to the basket. It's really tough to guard all four of us at the same time."
Jaylen Barford led Arkansas (4-1) with 21 points and C.J. Jones added 12 off the bench. Daniel Gafford, who was averaging nearly 16 points per game, was hampered by foul trouble and finished with just five points. The Razorbacks also lost second-leading scorer Daryl Macon to a leg injury midway through the second half.
"We came out and wanted to punch them and they punched back," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought their defense was really good. They did a good job of guarding us and we got some guys in foul trouble and I thought that limited us."
North Carolina used two first-half runs to take control. Down early, the Tar Heels rattled off 13 straight points to take the lead for good. They followed with a 14-4 run to close the first half and led 37-26 at the break.
Arkansas had a couple of second-half rallies that fell short. The first came after Macon had to be helped off the court due to his leg injury suffered on a baseline drive. Barford scored five straight points and layups from Dustin Thomas and Gafford pulled the Razorbacks within 55-48 with 13:01 left.
Maye tipped in a miss and the Tar Heels scored nine of the next 13 points to build the lead back to 14 on Pinson's layup with 9:20 remaining.
The lead remained there until consecutive 3s by Jones. Maye missed in the lane and a three-point play by Barford pulled the Razorbacks within 74-68 with 3:32 remaining. It was the final points for Arkansas. Berry hit two free throws and an offensive foul on Arkansas led to Pinson's thundering one-handed dunk and a 10-point lead with less than 3 minutes left.
Aside from giving Maye a hard time about his turnovers, Williams did not like how much his core group had to play to finally put away the Razorbacks. Maye, Williams, Berry and Pinson all played at least 33 minutes. The Tar Heels do have a rest day before the championship game.
Arkansas: Macon was already struggling from the field before getting injured. Macon was 1 of 9 in the first half and 2-of-11 overall. He was 7-of-13 shooting with six 3-pointers in the opening round win over Oklahoma.
North Carolina: Maye's previous career-high in points was 26 against Northern Iowa in the season opener and his previous high in rebounds was 15 against Florida State last season.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks will face either Michigan State or UConn on Sunday.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels will face either Michigan State or UConn on Sunday.
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Updated November 24, 2017