The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 29th

Brice Johnson "Manned Up" against Louisville

The junior forward had 18 points in the second half of UNC's 70-60 quarterfinal win.

<p>Brice Johnson celebrates a dunk during the first half. Johnson led the Tar Heels in points and rebounds in Thursday's game against Louisville. </p>
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Brice Johnson celebrates a dunk during the first half. Johnson led the Tar Heels in points and rebounds in Thursday's game against Louisville. 

Greensboro — It hadn't even been 10 minutes since his team's 70-60 win over Louisville in the quarterfinal of the ACC Tournament, but Roy Williams thought the crowd in the press conference auditorium could use a reminder.

"I’d like to introduce you to our two players," he started. "Marcus Paige is the first one. Brice Johnson — he’s the guy who showed up for the second half. Don’t know who was out there for the first half."

Some call him Jonathan — Johnson's first name, and decidedly inferior alter ego — but his teammates haven't used that moniker in months.

With just under eight minutes left in the first half, Williams may have called him something a bit harsher.

The Tar Heels were starting to spiral out of control after J.P. Tokoto had turned the ball over again and Louisville had increased their lead to six points.

Williams called a timeout, tore off his jacket and tore into Johnson.

"I was really mad," he said. "I guess I'd had enough at that point. Besides that, it was really hot out there in the first half, and I wanted to take my coat off."

According to Williams, Johnson has repeatedly expressed interest in donning one of those famed sports coats. His first-half play Thursday almost earned him the opportunity.

"I started to give it to him and let him sit in the stands there," Williams said.

Instead, he gave his junior forward a second chance.

That was all Johnson needed. 

In the first half, he had four points. In the second, he had 18.

In the first half, Johnson's emotional outbursts were unleashed in frustration. In the second, they stemmed from a fast-break dunk, a block, or a trademarked turnaround jumper.

In the first half? "My manhood was definitely challenged," he said. In the second? "I decided to man up and just come out and play."

The last time the two teams played, something else was challenged. North Carolina saw a double-digit lead slip away in the second half, and with it, a win.

"They wanted it more,” Johnson said. "(At Louisville) we went down without a fight. That was the one thing we were emphasizing throughout last night and this morning."

So Thursday, was there any question about that? Did the Tar Heels want it more this time?

"You have no idea," Johnson said, his expression as relieved as it had been in a long time.

"He’s just making a statement," Kennedy Meeks said. "Not only that he’s not a pushover, but this team isn’t."

Now for the real challenge — make that statement again. 

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