CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – When Kenny Williams saw his first 3-pointer drop two minutes into Sunday’s game against Radford, he knew it would be his night.
But not even Williams could have predicted that three minutes later he would already have scored his career high in points.
Entering the game, the sophomore wing’s career high was 11 points against Chattanooga earlier this season. With 15:20 left in the first half against the Highlanders, Williams had already amassed 14 points.
The Midlothian, Va. native finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including a career-high five 3-pointers on six attempts, but the story lies in his hot start. The 6-foot-4 guard opened his scoring night with a layup to give UNC an early 4-2 lead, only to then hit his next four 3-point attempts.
His early attack propelled UNC to an eventual 95-50 win over the Highlanders. For Williams, who started for the fifth time this season, that type of shooting performance has been a long time coming.
“I’ve been waiting a year and a half for a game like that,” Williams said after the game. “I don’t want to say I knew it was coming, but with the confidence I have right now I kind of expected it.”
As far as what was working for him, it was simply getting the ball right where he needed it; he let his skills do the rest.
“They were open looks,” he said. “I was getting the ball in my pocket where I wanted it and where I needed it. From there it was just mechanics and I’ve been working all summer on that so it came as no surprise that the ball was going in.”
In the opening five-minute span, Williams was starting to look like the shooter that head coach Roy Williams recruited. The sophomore even laughed after the game at the notion that it felt like he was back in high school with all of his shots falling.
“It kind of did,” he said. “Especially when you say getting lost in it. After I made the second one it was just doing what you do in practice everyday, so it kept working for me.”
Every time a trey fell for Williams, not only did the crowd erupt, but his teammates on the bench went into sheer pandemonium in support of him. Even with everyone around him screaming his praise, Williams stayed composed.
“He’s very calm,” Tony Bradley said of his teammate. “When he makes shots we celebrate with him but he stays the same and doesn’t get too hype. That’s what we notice about him.”
An outpouring of support from his teammates is something the guard is used to, especially last season when he struggled mightily from deep.
“I think you’ll know this, but in the ACC tournament against Pittsburgh was his first (3-pointer) and you would have thought it was a shot to win the national championship the way our bench acted that night,” the 14th-year UNC head coach said during the postgame press conference.
While Williams eventually cooled down, he still remarked on how surreal it was that he passed his career high so quickly in the game. For him, it all comes down to being open.
“With me not hitting double digits points a lot, to have it happen in the first five minutes is a little crazy,” he said. “The fact that I actually had that many open shots is kind of crazy to me. I think me making the shots wasn’t out of the ordinary, though.”