UNC head coach Roy Williams benched all of his starters seven minutes into the game Thursday night in Brooklyn during the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals, as Miami raced out to a 14-0 lead.

The subs then brought some much-needed momentum before Theo Pinson took over down the stretch in an 82-65 Tar Heel victory.

Instead of ripping his jacket in anger like he tried to do in Wednesday’s victory over Syracuse, Williams decided to go ahead and have every-dadgum-body take a seat next to him.

Baskets from reserves Seventh Woods and Sterling Manley—a drive resulting in a three-point play and an emphatic slam—helped kickstart what would eventually be a 32-17 run that helped UNC (24-9, 13-7 ACC) close the half with a one-point lead.

UNC freshman forward Sterling Manley had a big dunk early in the game after head coach Roy Williams benched the starters–a play that helped provide a huge momentum boost. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

When asked to explain what led to the call, the old coach explained its tough to single out just one person when nobody had done much of anything to that point.

“What was I supposed to do?” Williams asked reporters. “Take out Theo and leave the other four in? Or take out Joel? I was mad at everybody.

“I can sit over there and say, ‘Well they’ll work their way out of it,’” he continued. “But I like to see if I can jar ‘em a little bit more and, you know, slap them in the face a little bit more with the action.”

Pinson, meanwhile, scored 19 of his career-high 25 points in the second half as the Tar Heels methodically pulled away from the Hurricanes down the stretch.

Even with First Team All-ACC performers Luke Maye and Joel Berry combining to score just 13 points on 5-for-29 shooting from the floor, Pinson did just enough of everything to make up the difference.

The Greensboro native added 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals as he continues to play the best basketball of his Tar Heel career. Williams told reporters afterwards there’s been a more conscious effort to feed Pinson the ball due to his playmaking ability.

Now that his scoring has started to pick up, though, Pinson himself admits he’s enjoyed getting in on some of the fun.

“I have the ball in my hands a lot,” Pinson said. “So, I have the choice of shooting the ball or passing to my teammates. I love getting my teammates going. I mean, I have joy in doing that.

Miami shot just 37 percent from the field against a UNC defense playing as well as it has all season long. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

“But at the same time, if [the defense] is not gonna play me, I’ve gotta be aggressive” he added. “That gets my teammates going. If I’m scoring, I’m a threat. So that means they’ve got to guard me too. And that gets them even more open shots.”

It was also a bit of revenge of sorts for both Pinson and Berry, who had their Senior Night spoiled last Tuesday when Miami’s Ja’Quan Newton sank a miracle heave at the buzzer.

Newton led the Hurricanes (22-9, 12-8 ACC) again in this game with a team-high 17 points, but it wouldn’t be enough to keep UNC from setting up another revenge matchup on Friday.

With the whole world watching yet again, the Tar Heels will take on Duke for a third time this season—looking to avenge a loss in the season finale at Cameron Indoor Stadium. This time, though, a spot in the ACC Tournament Finals will be on the line.

“I know about the rivalry,” Pinson said. “It’s a big-time game. Everybody and their mama is gonna be watching the game tomorrow. Everybody knows that. And I’m gonna be ready. My teammates are gonna be ready.

“We understand we lost the last game, so that’s gonna get us even more hyped up about it,” he continued. “But at the same time, you can’t be bigger than the game. You gotta settle down and just play.”

Up Next:

The Tar Heels and Blue Devils will have their series rubber match on Friday night. Tip-off is scheduled for approximately 9:30 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • After his starters opened the game by going scoreless for six minutes and 26 seconds, Williams benched all five of his starters. Seventh Woods scored UNC’s first basket of the game on a hard drive with 12:51 left in the first half, ending the 14-0 Miami run.
  • The Tar Heels missed their first 13 shots of the night.
  • It was just the second 20-point, 10-rebound game of Pinson’s career, and it was his 6th double in his past 14 games for UNC.







Cover photo via Julie Jacobson (Associated Press)