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Maye leads No. 9 North Carolina against Bucknell

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Luke Maye became a recognizable figure in the NCAA Tournament last year when his basket against Kentucky sent eventual national champion North Carolina to the Final Four.

Now he figures to have a bigger role with the ninth-ranked Tar Heels this season.

"I'm continuing to work on my offensive game," Maye said.

That showed when the junior forward poured in a career-high 26 points to go with 10 rebounds in a season-opening victory against Northern Iowa.

The Tar Heels might need big production from him again Wednesday night when Bucknell visits the Smith Center.

"He's very confident and he should be because he's a very good basketball player," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "His preparation, trying to take care of his body and trying to be a better player is about as high as it can possibly be, so he is seeing the benefits of some of that work."

With senior point guard Joel Berry out with a broken bone in his right hand and graduate transfer Cameron Johnson sitting out the opener because of a neck strain, it gave Maye a chance to be one of the showcase players for the Tar Heels. He had never led North Carolina in scoring until the Northern Iowa game.

"To have Joel and Cam out and play like that is really exciting," Maye said of the team's 86-69 victory.

Against Bucknell, Williams will be going for his 400th victory with the Tar Heels. In his 15th season, he's 399-115 (and 817-216 overall in 30 seasons).

Of Williams' victories, 199 have come at the Smith Center.

With guard Jalek Felton and forward Garrison Brooks, North Carolina started two freshmen in an opener for only the second time since 2007.

Felton's role came in part because of Berry's absence. Brooks has progressed the most among the new post players, Williams said.

"Garrison is playing more minutes because he's making fewer mistakes," Williams said. "He's boxing out more. He's running the floor more."

The newcomers didn't seem to harm some of the Tar Heels' efficiency because their seven turnovers were the fewest in the first game of a season under Williams.

North Carolina guard Theo Pinson said he was pleased how the Tar Heels dealt with the lineup.

"We prepared to play without Joel, but we didn't know Cam was going to be out, too," Pinson said. "But like we always say, next man up."

Bucknell (0-2) opened the season with a 79-78 loss at Monmouth before Sunday's 101-73 setback at Arkansas.

The Bison start the season with four road games, taking a visit to Maryland after this one.

"Games like this show you the things you have to improve, and we will get back to work," Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said.

Davis said there were good signs against Arkansas, albeit defensive frustrations.

"I thought at times we executed very well," he said. "They just hit one tough shot after another."

This marks the first meeting between Bucknell and North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a 19-game homecourt winning streak.

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