“Even on film, you could see it,” Johnson said of his effort. “I was trotting back on defense last game, and he got really upset with us about that. He said he was tired of looking at us, because of the way we played on Sunday. I knew I had to do better.”
The Tar Heels looked sluggish again in the first half against the Terriers. Limping into the locker room at halftime with a minimal 34-29 lead, it looked like Wofford might give North Carolina a run in the second half.
That wouldn’t be the case, though, as Johnson opened the second half with a dunk that seemed to re-energize the team and the fans in attendance. This was the team Williams expected to see each game. And this was the Brice Johnson North Carolina needs while they’re missing senior guard Marcus Paige due to injury.
Sophomore wing Theo Pinson understands how valuable Johnson is to this team. A player like Johnson can set the tone of a game just with his rebounding, and those efforts filter through the rest of the team.
“I tell Brice to dominate the boards,” Pinson said. “Nobody is jumping as high as him. Nobody has as long of arms as he does. I tell him all the time to just go get it. If I’m in the way, knock me out of the way. He’s a big part of our team, and we need him.”
With an emphasis on exploiting North Carolina’s size advantage to get the ball down low, the Tar Heels started to pull away. The team went on to shoot 16 free throws compared to just three in the first half. By the final whistle, they outscored Wofford 50-18 in the paint.
North Carolina didn’t play the perfect game on Wednesday night, and at times they didn’t look like the experienced cohesive unit everyone expects. Yet they found a way to win and are still undefeated with a 3-0 record.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult game,” Williams said. “I think our team was better today than we were Sunday. We were more attentive, gave better effort defensively, we talked more and were more consistent. I feel a lot better about the game than I did after Sunday’s game.”