Miami North Carolina Basketball (copy)

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Miami in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. North Carolina won 88-85 in overtime. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

CHAPEL HILL — Coby White signaled for a timeout in front of the North Carolina bench with 17 seconds remaining in regulation and the Tar Heels trailing Miami by three points in a stunned Smith Center on Saturday afternoon.

Roy Williams faced a decision: put the Tar Heels’ winning streak in the hands of White, who had made five straight 3-point attempts in the second half, or instead look for one of three seniors who have proven capable from behind the arc.

Rather than riding the hot hand, he chose Luke Maye to score what would become the tying bucket to force overtime in what would ultimately become Carolina’s 88-85 victory.

Williams obviously had his reasons for going to Maye.

“He sucked the whole game, so he might as well go ahead and make a shot and people would forget about how poorly he’d played,” he said.

Indeed, what Maye himself called a poor performance was forgotten in saving the Tar Heels from their second mystifying home loss of the season, but there was a little more to the decision than Williams let on with his postgame quip.

In Friday’s practice, the Tar Heels spent a period running through late-game situations, generally putting 15 seconds on the clock and working through its offense to see what worked and what didn’t. There were successes and failures, makes and misses, but nowhere to be found was the pick-and-pop set that Williams called for Maye.

“We’ve done it before in practice, but we didn’t do it yesterday,” Maye said. “We’ve done it before and I’ve hit that shot many times and it’s something I’m confident in doing.”

After catching the inbound pass, White dribbled toward the 3-point arc almost too casually. Down in the corner, Williams began stomping his foot and Maye took off to set the screen on Miami’s Chris Lykes, a 5-7 guard, almost immediately, bringing Miami big man Anthony Lawrence with him.

That’s where Williams’ true thought process on the final play was revealed with the chance of an advantageous matchup for either Tar Heel in the action.

“I’ve coached a few games,” he said, joking. “So it’s one thing if he sets a screen on the ball and they switch; that means a guy my size is guarding him, so it’s a lot better for Luke to shoot it.”

Turned out, neither scenario played out exactly that way as Lawrence showed his hand too early, stepping out for a hard hedge. Recognizing he wouldn’t have to hang in to sell the screen any longer, Maye used a quick spin to get to his spot for a wide open look.

Step, spin, swoosh.

“That play was made for Luke,” White said. “Luke hit a big time shot. It was no doubt he was going to (make it) in my head.”

Williams has certainly taken some grief for his in-game coaching decisions in the past, but he won’t get nearly enough credit for putting his team in position to win on Saturday.

Could he have stuck with White for the shot? Sure, but Lykes would have been draped on him like a cheap suit.

Could he have looked to Cam Johnson, who is shooting 48 percent from 3-point range this season? It makes sense, but that would have drawn a more versatile defender in the 6-2 Zach Johnson into the fold.

Turns out, Ol’ Roy knows what he’s doing, using Miami’s own aggressiveness to Carolina’s advantage and helping his team get the right shot.

“He came at me because I was hitting so many jumpers,” White said. “”Luke was wide open.”

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