After the break, the UNC lead was an uneasy one, teetering from six to 13 points for more than 10 minutes in the second half. Still, the advantage built up in the first half held, and Johnson’s early flurry was the separator.
The fact that he didn’t score after halftime was, in a word, unusual; but that first half was, according to his teammates, typical Johnson.
“That’s Cam being Cam,” senior guard Kenny Williams said. “We like to joke that that’s what we pay him to do.”
The Louisville game was also the first after Johnson learned he had been named as an All-ACC First Team selection on Monday – a long way from averaging less than five points per game in his first full season with Pittsburgh in 2015-16.
“I feel really blessed to be in a position to play for this university, and to contribute to what we have going on here,” Johnson said. “A lot of it goes to the coaching, my teammates, and we’re just trying to play basketball. Been doing it all year – just trying to play – trying to get better, and win games. And (being named to All-ACC) was just a result of that.”
Since transferring to UNC before the 2017-18 campaign, Johnson has averaged 14.8 points per game on 41.3 percent from 3-point range, including a 46.9 percent mark from deep this season coming into Thursday's game.
And as the Tar Heels’ leading scorer in the regular season at 16.8 points per game, Johnson was a big reason why North Carolina won a share of the ACC regular season title for a record 32nd time.
Facing the prospect of a third matchup with Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals, this North Carolina team also has a chance to do something special in one of the most storied rivalries in college basketball – beat the Blue Devils three times in a single season.
“It’s fine if we do, it’s fine if we don’t,” sophomore forward Garrison Brooks said when asked about the potential achievement. “It don’t really matter to me.”
Along with the rest of the Tar Heel collective, Johnson refused to look ahead.
“We’ll just go out there, and we’re going to play,” Johnson said. “We’re going to get into the film room – tonight, probably – and get ready for the game tomorrow. Whoever wins, we’ll play.”
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