CHAPEL HILL – There was no complex formula for Justin Jackson. He didn’t have a “coming to Jesus moment” with coach Roy Williams on the bus, or do anything to change his routine.
Jackson, the North Carolina sophomore guard, was just tired of missing shots.
Before the Heels hosted Pittsburgh, Jackson was watching film from UNC’s 68-65 win over Boston College. When he hit his first triple against the Eagles, something the announcers said caught his ear.
The announcers said Jackson was 0-30 from three-point range before knocking down a pair at BC (he was actually 2-26), but still, it had been a while since the Texas native saw long distance shots go through the net regularly. He went 2-3 in a win over the Eagles, and duplicated that in a 85-64 home win over the Panthers.
Jackson finished with 14 points, six assists and four rebounds, an all around balanced game. It’s the type of performancing shooting the ball that many came to expect from Jackson after he caught fire towards the end of his freshman season. Coming back with higher expectations his sophomore year, Jackson showed the flashes early. He put together three consecutive games scoring 20 points on more in November.
“He needed to see some of those go in,” UNC coach Roy Williams said after the game. “He’s had two good games in a row shooting the basketball.”
Jackson has been a 12 point-per game player for the Heels, but only scored in double figures twice in seven games leading up to Pitt. Not he has put together consecutive double-digits games for the first time since early January, a good sign for the Heels.
Jackson attributed the slump to him forcing the issue a lot. Instead of just shooting, he was thinking too much, wanting every shot to go in. Teammates said of late Jackson has been relaxed, taking the pressure off of himself.
“A different attitude,” Jackson said after the Pitt game. “Just going out there and trying to have fun, instead of going out there and feeling like I have to do something.”
He didn’t have to do anything against the Panthers. The Tar Heels played well enough across the board that even a bad game by Jackson could have been masked. But if UNC wants to make another run come March, Jackson should be expected to play another big role. Asked if he was in another groove, similar to how he felt those three games in November, Jackson responded, “I feel like I’m back to myself.”
He added, “I can’t say I’ve changed anything, except mentally. I just feel a little bit better out there. My teammates are finding me a little bit and I’ve been able to knock down some shots.”