Current Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2014 03:20:35 -0400
When North Carolina played its best stretches of basketball in Friday’s exhibition against Shaw, one player was on the court almost the every time. And it wasn’t one of the usual suspects.
Freshman forward Brice Johnson, in his first collegiate game, played limited minutes. But they were some of the most important minutes of the Tar Heels’ 81-54 win.
Johnson finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, a block, an assist and a steal in just 13 minutes of playing time. But his impact went beyond the stat sheet — with Johnson on the court, UNC outscored Shaw by 34 points, 42-8.
And Johnson helped North Carolina go on two key runs — an 11-0 run in the first half, and a 27-3 run in the second half.
When Johnson entered the game in the first half, the No. 11 Tar Heels trailed Shaw 13-10. With Johnson in, they scored 11 straight points to go up 21-13.
“Brice in the first half only played four minutes, had four rebounds and six points. So I told him that was pretty good,” coach Roy Williams said. “If he’s going to do it like that, I’ll play him more.”
Those four minutes included a 58-second stretch in which Johnson swished a turnaround jumper from the left wing, pulled down two defensive boards and crashed the offensive glass to slam home a putback.
The 6-foot-9 Johnson did a nice job playing above the rim. He elevated high when he took jump shots and went for rebounds.
The freshmen weren’t available for comment after the game, but Johnson’s teammates had plenty to say.
“Oh, he played well, he played very well,” guard Dexter Strickland said. “Just his presence alone, blocking shots and down there in the post. He even got a putback dunk. He’s got a nice touch around the rim. He’s going to be real good for us.”
The game was tied at 44 when Johnson got his first action of the second half. And just like in the first half, UNC went on another long run once he subbed in — rattling off 23 consecutive points before Shaw got another basket.
Johnson capped the streak with a long assist to Reggie Bullock on the fast break, hitting Bullock in stride for a finger roll.
He also had a fast-break dunk of his own when Bullock fed him underneath on a two-on-one in transition.
“He ran the floor great, came off the bench and provided phenomenal energy,” forward James McAdoo said. “That’s really what we look for when guys come off the bench. He was very productive with his minutes.”
By the time Johnson exited after eight minutes, UNC had turned a tie game into a 71-47 lead.
Johnson made the most of his playing time. He did a little bit of everything, and the other Tar Heels took notice.
“He did a tremendous job, getting alley-oops, getting rebounds. He was on the boards like crazy,” guard Leslie McDonald said. “He was looking really good. If he keeps doing that, I think he’s going to get more playing time and be a factor in our organization.”
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