Brice Johnson unsatisfied with UNC win
The frustration was evident in Brice Johnson’s eyes as he sat slumped outside the North Carolina locker room.
It wasn’t about his own performance. No, the No. 12 UNC basketball team likely wouldn’t have beaten Holy Cross 62-54 on Friday without him.
It was about the lethargy and selfishness surrounding him.
In some ways, Johnson was alone Friday, just him and fellow sophomore Marcus Paige providing the energy UNC so sorely lacked in a 25-25 first half.
“I had to do something,” said Johnson, who scored 12 points in 18 minutes on the court. “My team was dead. I had to bring some kind of energy to it. I can’t stand playing dead. That was just ugly.
“I’m gonna be honest with you, that was the ugliest first half I’ve ever seen.”
After shooting 74.2 percent in the first half against Oakland last week — a record for any half under Roy Williams — the Tar Heels shot just 27.3 percent from the field in Friday’s first half. UNC allowed the Crusaders, who shot just 22 percent in the half, to climb back from an 11-1 deficit and even the ledger at 25.
Williams admonished the Tar Heels for their selfishness at halftime with the message, “It’s not about you.”
Johnson and Paige — who are roommates and close friends — established a connectivity on the court in the second half. Together they provided 12 points of an 18-3 run that elevated UNC from being down 32-29 to being up 47-35. Perhaps just as importantly, they provided energy-inducing plays throughout the game — a steal and layup from Paige, an emotionally charged dunk from Johnson.
“Me and Marcus are like brothers, so we fed off each other,” Johnson said. “After I dunked it and screamed, he said, ‘Alright, let’s go. Let’s play. That’s the energy I wanted.’”
Johnson scored in double digits for the second time in two games this season after not doing so in the last 21 games of last season. James Michael McAdoo said Johnson has done a lot of growing. It’s just his motor he needs to work on at times, McAdoo said. He needs to come ready to play every day.
That wasn’t an issue Friday.
“You can see it — it’s easy to see,” Paige said. “He wears it on his sleeve. He gets emotional. He really cares, and that’s the kind of emotion and intensity we need from everybody. He needs to do a better job of not letting the bad play affect him, but at the same time …you gotta have a couple of guys that can get fired up like that.”
The fire was still there after the game. He didn’t mince words.
“I’m not going to enjoy this win,” Johnson said. “That was ugly. That was terrible …We could’ve done a lot better than that.”
Johnson looked up, his eyes wide and expressive.
“We had 25 points in the first half. That’s not Carolina basketball.”