MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Part of winning championships in March is getting an unexpected great game from a role player.
North Carolina got just that Friday night from reserve forward Luke Maye.
Playing the best game of his career, the sophomore achieved his first double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds as the top-seeded Tar Heels rolled into the South Region championship game with a 92-80 beating of fourth-seeded Butler at FedEx Forum.
Joel Berry led all scorers with 26 points and Justin Jackson added 24 points, five rebounds and five assists in a smooth all-around effort as North Carolina (30-7) assured itself of a spot in Sunday's regional final opposite either UCLA or Kentucky.
But the story was Maye, who entered the game averaging a modest 5.1 ppg and 3.8 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. He'd shown flashes of excellence with four double-figure scoring efforts and 15 rebounds in a January win over Florida State, but no one, except perhaps for coach Roy Williams, could have expected what Maye delivered.
By halftime, Maye already scored a career-high 14 points while adding nine boards -- just two fewer than the physical Bulldogs (25-9) managed as a team.
"We see this from him in practice all the time," Williams said. "He lights up the (starters) all the time and has a smile on his face while doing it. He could play better on defense, and he put up a jump hook one time with Kennedy Meeks wide open under the basket.
"So he could see his teammates better, but I'm telling you, you haven't seen the best of him yet at North Carolina."
Maye is a legacy recruit of sorts, as his father Mark played quarterback for the Tar Heels about 30 years ago. Williams noted that the son had other Atlantic Coast Conference schools which offered him, as well as Bob McKillop's Davidson.
But Williams convinced father and son to remain patient, that there would be a spot for him in Chapel Hill. Not willing to settle for being a nice face on the end of the bench after a quiet freshman season in which he didn't play a lot, Maye pledged to Williams that no one would outwork him.
"I just wanted to play the best I can and limit my mistakes and help this team win," Maye said. "Today I got a couple of shots to fall in and I felt pretty confident, and they kept going."
Maye's early explosion presented North Carolina with a working margin it maintained for the night's remainder, even as it lost focus at times in the second half. Butler could never shave the lead under 10 points, though, as it simply couldn't stop the high-powered Tar Heels or compete with them on the glass.
The Bulldogs entered the game yielding just 68.2 points per game, but North Carolina got to 30 before the game was 10 minutes old and led 52-36 at the half, eventually finishing with a season high against its defensive-minded foe.
"We let them get into a rhythm, especially in the beginning, and when you let a team like that feel good about themselves, it's tough to get them out of that," Butler forward Andrew Chrabascz said. "They answered every run we had. Give credit where it's due; they played unbelievably tonight."
Chrabascz did his part to keep the Bulldogs in contention with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Kelan Martin added 16 points, 14 after halftime, and Kamar Baldwin scored 14.
But Butler sank just 43.5 percent of its field-goal tries and went only 8-of-28 from the 3-point line while getting drummed 38-26 on the glass. By contrast, the Tar Heels converted 54.4 percent from the field, drawing assists on 22 of their 31 field goals.
Maye's performance factored heavily into their success.
"He can shoot the ball, and he can rebound the ball," Williams said. "He's got a big role with this team and it's only going to get bigger and bigger."
NOTES: North Carolina entered the game leading Division I in offensive rebound percentage at 42.9. It's one of only three teams to collect more than 40 percent of its misses. ... Butler came into this one ninth in Division I in fewest turnovers per game at just 10.2. ... Tar Heels G Joel Berry (ankle) started despite being hobbled at times in a 72-65 win Sunday night over Arkansas.