CHAPEL HILL — Kenny Williams wasn’t surprised by what he saw on Wednesday night in North Carolina’s 104-61 win over Western Carolina.
The 11th-ranked Tar Heels (9-1) knocked down a season-high 16 three-pointers against the Catamounts (3-7) to finish one shy of the school record.
UNC had six players finish in double figures, with six players knocking down two or more 3-point baskets on the night. The Tar Heels hit 72 percent of their 22 shots from behind the arc to set a school record.
“We know we can shoot the ball,” said Williams, who knocked down a trio of treys and finished with 13 points.
“You can see it after practice, guys staying after practice putting up extra shots. That’s really no surprise to see the ball go in. Once guys see a couple of them go in, the rim looks bigger for everybody and everybody’s confidence goes up. I think that’s what happened.”
Freshman Jalek Felton set the pace for UNC — which led by as many as 49 points on the night and finished with 31 assists on 37 made baskets — with a quartet of 3-pointers and a game-high 15 points. Fellow rookie Andrew Platek drained three baskets from behind the 3-point line and logged 11 points.
“We were bigger, stronger, quicker. We were more gifted and we made a bunch of shots. … there’s a lot of things to like,” said UNC coach Roy Williams. “I really liked their focus with exams getting ready to get started. I thought we did some good things.
“(Sophomore) Seventh (Woods) is going to be out for awhile. He has a stress fracture (in his right foot). We don’t know how long, so Jalek will be getting those extra reps in practice all week. He’s getting more comfortable. … I’ve said all along that he’s gifted.”
Felton agreed that he’s starting to feel more comfortable as a college player.
“I think I am starting to pick up on things a little bit faster now,” he said. “Just taking it one practice, one game at a time. Starting to see a little progression and getting my confidence back to where I like it. Stuff is starting to roll and fall in the right place.”
Luke Maye logged a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. He scored nine points in the first 10 minutes of the game against Western Carolina to surpass his point total from last season.
Joel Berry had 12 points and Brandon Robinson, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Wednesday, dropped 10 points to round out the players in double figures.
The shooting production was a welcome sight for freshman post player Garrison Brooks, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
“It’s great to see any shot go in from anybody even though we emphasize going inside all the time,” Brooks said.
“It’s kind of weird because the best three players on our team — Luke, Kenny and Joel — are 3-point shooters. It’s weird.”
Western Carolina took a quick 5-0 lead in the early going before the Tar Heels responded with a 33-3 blitz.
UNC carried a 53-26 lead into the break and never looked back.
But it wasn’t all good for the Tar Heels, who also logged a season-high 17 turnovers.
And Williams is still worried about his team’s ability to defend the paint and rebound.
“I told them I was not worried about the score — I told them that before the game,” Williams said. “I wanted to see how we played. The next five or six days we’re hardly practicing at all.
“You’ll here me — I’ll probably say it before the day I die — that we’ve got to get better defensively. Particularly, defending big guys around the rim. … and I don’t like 17 turnovers, even in a high possession game.”
Capping their seven-game, 14-day stretch with the blowout win, the Tar Heels will now take an 11-day break for exams before returning to action on Dec. 17 at No. 24 Tennessee, which has wins this season over N.C. State and Georgia Tech.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.