Senior Class of Wolfpack Killers

With 21 seconds to go against N.C. State, North Carolina guard Kenny Williams hauled in his tenth rebound of the game off a missed jumper, and got fouled while trying to push the ball up court with an outlet pass. His team securely in the double bonus, and with an eight point lead on top of that, the senior guard walked his way to the opposite free throw line.

And smiled.

He smiled at his teammates on the floor, his teammates on the bench, his coaches, anyone he could make eye contact with. He didn’t think anyone knew what he was smiling about at that moment, but Williams just needed them to take in the scene to understand.

“You could look up, and see all the empty seats of people that had already left,” Williams said. “There's nothing more satisfying than looking up and seeing people walking to their cars to beat the traffic.”

There wasn’t much reason for the Wolfpack faithful to stick around in the closing seconds of UNC’s 90-82 win on Tuesday night. Not after the Tar Heels out rebounded NC State 51-33. Not after all five UNC starters scored in double figures. And especially not after UNC’s trio of seniors each earned double-doubles, the first time UNC has had three double-doubles in a game since the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Kenny Williams takes a three-point shot in the first half against N.C. State. The senior guard finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, his first collegiate double-double. | Photo by Turner Walston.

Kenny Williams takes a three-point shot in the first half against N.C. State. The senior guard finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, his first collegiate double-double. | Photo by Turner Walston.

Kenny Williams earned his first career double-double, with 15 points and 10 rebounds knocking in a pair of threes to go with three shots from the charity stripe that feel through. A cardiac performance worthy of the frenetic pace of play.

Luke Maye, who scored 33 points and had 17 rebounds the last time he played in PNC Arena, led UNC’s scoring once again with 21 points to go along with 11 boards, 15 of those points coming in the first half. Maye doesn’t think he played well, noting his far too many turnovers (7), missed opportunities for even more rebounds, and poor, for him at least, shooting percentage (46.15 percent from the floor).

And while he may not have played to the best of his ability, he still was the same star he always has been since his sophomore year against State, grabbing tons of boards, being a pest on the inside, and draining shots that put daggers in State’s runs.

The type of daggers that have drawn comparisons to another noted “fan” of playing in PNC Arena, Marcus Paige.

“(Marcus) may have passed it down,” Maye said about his label as a “Wolfpack killer”, “but I still think he's the true OG. I've played pretty well here, and I think that's just a testament to just how hard I've worked and my teammates putting me in the right position to be successful.

“I've been very grateful to be on such good teams.”

His graduate transfer teammate, Cameron Johnson, got a chance to play Wolfpack Killer himself to open up the second half, draining a pair of threes, including a four-point play to break an early tie, en route to 9 second half points and a total of 15. He grabbed his 11th rebound not even four minutes into the second half, to go along with five assists, before cramps took him out of the game early in the second half.

As trainer Doug Halverson gave him pickle juice, magnesium water, and a multitude of other remedies to attempt to break up the cramps, Johnson was forced to watch the game on his phone in the locker room, only able to hear the crowd reaction on to the game if the locker room door was open, which only confused him more due to the delay on the feed.

Cameron Johnson looks to make a pass against N.C. State in PNC Arena. The graduate transfer forward was five assists away from a triple-double (15 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) before being forced to leve the game due to cramps. | Photo by Turner Walston.

Cameron Johnson looks to make a pass against N.C. State in PNC Arena. The graduate transfer forward was five assists away from a triple-double (15 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) before being forced to leve the game due to cramps. | Photo by Turner Walston.

Johnson said it was weird watching a game he was on the court for just moments earlier, though he eventually returned to the bench with about 3 minutes to go in the game. But he’s more worried about the ragging his teammates are going to give him for going out with “just” cramps.

“I know the guys are going to give me a hard time about this one,” Johnson said.

“No we're not,” Luke Maye, getting dressed the next chair over in the locker room, teased.

Johnson rolled his eyes. “Look at his face,” he said incredulously to the reporters standing nearby. “He looks like he's about to give me a hard time already.”

Johnson may get a hard time about his cramps later, but it won’t compare to how hard Williams and Maye will ding him for his record in PNC Arena compared to their own. The pair of four-year seniors wrapped up a 4-0 record on the Wolfpack’s home court, something Johnson can’t boast.

"CAM!” Kenny Williams shouted across the locker room post game.

“YEAH?” Johnson yelled from in the shower about 20 feet away.

“WHAT'S YOUR RECORD IN RALEIGH?”

“HUH?”

“WHAT'S. YOUR RECORD. IN RALEIGH?”

“2-1!”

Williams smirked. “We'll give him some leeway, he went to Pitt. He doesn't get to play them as much, and the emotions aren't as high, so we'll give him some leeway for that one.”

NC State will travel to Chapel Hill on the 5th of February later this season, a game the Wolfpack won a season ago that help put the team on the map under Kevin Keatts. Ready for vengeance with a team well-armed to run with Carolina. But for the next month at least, the trio of senior Wolfpack Killers ensured those sporting Blue will be able to own the school yard arguments.

“Just growing up in this state, I always here about North Carolina State fans, North Carolina fans just kind of bantering back and forth,” Maye said. “I just think it's good to go out there and show them that we're the better team tonight.”

@sjdoughton