CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina must already be in the Christmas spirit because the Tar Heels were giving Appalachian State reasons to believe they could hang around early.
It wasn’t pretty, but North Carolina defeated the Mountaineers 94-70 despite going stretches where it appeared UNC already had its mind on opening Christmas gifts. The Tar Heels only trailed once, 3-0, and were never seriously threatened by ASU, but Roy Williams needed every ounce out of his much more talented Heels to pick up win number 10 of the season.
“It was a weird game,” Williams said. “They shoot 51 percent in the first half and I looked down there and I think they had 13 turnovers at halftime, we scored 31 points off turnovers. The other part that was weird in the first half was that we didn’t rebound worth a darn. But I’m glad to have a W, glad to do some good things so everybody can go home and see Santa Claus and do good.”
Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks saved the day for UNC, having solid games, going for 22 and 12, respectively. All-American guard Marcus Paige missed a big chunk of the second half after aggravating his ankle. Williams and the Heels didn’t need Paige to return in this non-conference showdown, but North Carolina, at times, looked out of sync, perhaps disinterested, against a Mountaineers team that looked better than their two-win record indicates.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Williams said. “We are efficient, especially when we are hitting shots, but we just didn’t shoot the ball well tonight.”
By the time Justin Jackson dunked (a rarity) at the 3:14 mark to put UNC up 25, many fans felt comfortable enough to head for the exits. Jackson (12) and Joel Berry (11 points, 11 assists) paced the Heels in the win.
Game changer – Appalachian State took an early 3-0 lead, getting a bucket on its first possession. Carolina countered with a 13-0 run, sparked by Brice Johnson who scored six in a row and 10 of the first 15 points for UNC. His 16 consecutive field goals made (between UCLA game and App State game) tied a school record.
Stick with it – See above post. Johnson has been on a roll lately, going for 25, 27 and 22 the last three games. Johnson started the game 8-9 and finished with just four missed shots. ASU had no answer at all in the paint for the 6-10 senior forward.
Numbers don’t lie
4 – Number of players to score in double figures for the Tar Heels.
85.2 – UNC’s free throw percentage. The Heels didn’t light it up from the field, but they were solid from the line.
22 – Number of assist for the Heels on 34 made field goals.
Brice Johnson, UNC – Senior forward had 22 points, nine boards and two assists.
Joel Berry, UNC – The sophomore point guard continues to grow, collecting a double-double against the Mountaineers with 11 points and 11 assists to match.
“Eleven assist, I really like that,” Williams said. “You get more comfortable playing at a faster speed, the game slows down and you play faster.”
Ronshad Shabazz, ASU – The true freshman had a career-high 21 points on 8-12 shooting against the Heels.
What’s next? – Carolina gets one more warm up, Monday versus UNC-Greensboro, before they start ACC play on Dec. 12 at home against Clemson.
Quote of the night – “Justin had 10 rebounds and Theo had five. The two guys who play the most in that spot had 15 more rebounds than my wife. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” Roy Williams comparing Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson’s rebounding total to his wife, Wanda.