But just as impressive as the offensive explosion was North Carolina’s defense. UNC forced four turnovers while extending its lead to double digits and allowed just one made field goal in almost nine minutes of game time. The Tar Heels also outrebounded the Cardinals, 12-5, during the run.
Controlling the glass
Only three times this season has North Carolina not held an advantage over its opponent in the rebounding department. The first occasion was in a 16-point win against UCLA, the second was in an 8-point loss to Kentucky and the third was in the 21-point beatdown by Louisville.
Against the Cardinals on Saturday, UNC made sure it did not get beat on the glass again, in large part by neutralizing Steven Enoch. Enoch, a 6-foot-10 transfer from Connecticut, dominated UNC for 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in Chapel Hill. Yet he was unable to recreate that success and tallied just 4 rebounds while scoring zero points on the afternoon this time around. Fellow Cardinal Dwayne Sutton was held to 8 rebounds after grabbing 10 at the Smith Center.
For UNC, it was a team effort to control the rebounding battle (49-32) on the day. Maye led the way with 11 rebounds, but six other players snagged at least four. The ability to rebound on the offensive glass also led to 18 second-chance points.
North Carolina is at its best when bringing energy on the boards, and the Tar Heels certainly played up to that standard for one of their best performances all season. The showing was especially important considering UNC shot just 6 of 24 from 3-point range.
Johnson and Brooks stand out
Despite an encouraging team performance against the Cardinals on Saturday, only two UNC starters managed to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. White, who was averaging 15.2 points per game leading up to the contest, managed just 8 points on 3 of 14 shooting. Maye had a game-high 20 points but shot just 7-for-18 from the field.
Johnson and Brooks were the two players that shot efficiently from the field. Johnson was a perfect 4-for-4 in the first half and finished the game with 19 points on 5 of 9 shooting. He also added 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Brooks missed just 3 shots on the day and tallied 12 points. Johnson’s ability to stretch the defense with his outside shooting ability proved potent against the Cardinals. He shot 3 of 6 from 3-point range and prevented the defense from sagging down low. In turn, Brooks got wide open opportunities and made the most of them. Of his 6 field goals, 5 were layups and 1 was a dunk as Brooks’ teammates were able to find him in the paint.
Johnson has now scored more than 15 points in consecutive games after failing to do so in five of the previous six ACC contests. UNC will need its best perimeter scorer to continue to put his mark on games moving forward as matchups with No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Virginia loom ahead in the next few weeks.
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