Berry Rallies No. 7 UNC Past Georgia Tech

After trailing for a majority of the game on Saturday, the No. 7 UNC men’s basketball team put together a furious rally in the final minutes to defeat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 86-78.

The comeback was sparked by sophomore guard Joel Berry, who ignited the Dean Dome crowd with two critical late-game shots and a career-high 19 points.

“He stepped up and made a big three when it was a two point game,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said of Berry. “We got a stop [afterwards] and then he came down, took it to the basket, got fouled and made the shot for an old-fashioned three-point play.

Joel James provided a huge lift with an unexpected 11-point performance. (Todd Melet)

Joel James provided a huge lift with an unexpected 11-point performance. (Todd Melet)

“And to me, those were the two biggest plays in the game right there,” the coach added.

UNC head coach Roy Williams sees his team improve to 13-2 this season with a 2-0 mark to begin ACC competition– after Berry’s six-point surge with five minutes to play gave UNC its first lead since the 14-minute mark in the first half.

With the crowd fully energized, the Tar Heels scored points on each of their final eight possessions to drop the Yellow Jackets to 10-4 overall and 0-1 inside the conference.

Despite struggling with turnovers early in the day, Berry’s emergence as the late game hero was a good sign for UNC—which in recent years has relied heavily on Marcus Paige to make all the plays in crunch time.

“I really wasn’t having a good game on the offensive end,” Berry said. “[But] they were paying a lot of attention to Marcus [Paige], so when he came off the ball screen I came up.

“It gave me a little confidence when I hit the three,” he added. “I felt like myself.”

Six players ended up in double figures for the Tar Heels, including 15 points for senior forward Brice Johnson—who tallied 11 rebounds for another double-double–and 13 for Paige.

Justin Jackson had 10 and Isaiah Hicks chipped in 12–continuing his run of solid performances with Kennedy Meeks out.

But it was the man starting in front of Hicks—Joel James—who provided the most unexpected lift.

James, not known for his scoring prowess, scored the team’s first six points and finished with 11. This after a pre-game chat with a former national champion forward, and now an assistant with the team—Sean May.

“Players go through ups and downs,” James said. “But luckily I had a good talk with Big May.

“He just told me that it’s basketball you know? Just gotta go out there and keep playing, have fun, and let the chips fall where they may every time [I] take the floor.”

The Yellow Jackets were able to stay in front on the scoreboard mostly due to the exploits of two of its guards.

Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 25 points by continually getting fouled on drives through the lane—sinking 12 of his 15 shots from the charity stripe. His teammate, graduate student Adam Smith, a Virginia Tech transfer, was lights out from beyond the arc—scoring 20 points while making 6-of-10 from long range.

The Tar Heel bench reacts after a big play. (Todd Melet)

The Tar Heel bench reacts after a big play. (Todd Melet)

These types of inspired performances have become the norm for Tar Heel opponents this season, something Hicks says comes with the territory.

“We got a target on our backs,” Hicks said. “You know, North Carolina. Other big schools have targets on their backs.

“So [we] know every night is gonna be a tough matchup. Can’t just go out there and think the other team’s just gonna lay down.

“Other players want to be us,” he added.

Despite giving its best shot, Georgia Tech was simply overwhelmed by UNC’s depth down the stretch.

With Paige struggling to connect on his jump shot and Meeks still sidelined with a bruised knee, the Tar Heels simply allowed new faces to shine. Berry and James were forced to take on bigger roles to help win this one, which made it easy for their coach to sum up what he saw afterwards.

“It was a Joel and Joel party there for a while tonight,” Williams said. “And I was happy they were both with us.”

Up Next:

A trip to Tallahassee awaits the Tar Heels, as they’ll face a quick turnaround before playing the Florida State Seminoles–who are 10-3 this season. Fresh off a loss against Clemson, though, the Seminoles should be plenty motivated.

Game Notes:

  • Roy Williams set the ACC record for most wins by a head coach in his first 200 ACC regular-season games. Carolina is 143-57 in Williams’ first 200 ACC regular-season games. Dean Smith held the previous mark at 142-58.
  • Carolina became just the third team to out-rebound Georgia Tech this season. The Tar Heels out-rebounded the Yellow Jackets, 39-29. Tennessee (by six) and Georgia (by one) also out-rebounded the Jackets.
  • UNC is now 52-49 in Smith Center history when trailing at the half (trailed 42-39 at the break on Saturday).
  • Joel James’ 11 points were the most he’s ever scored against an ACC opponent.



58-0: The Streak Continues as No. 7 UNC Beats Clemson in ACC Opener

For the 58th time in 58 tries, the No. 7 UNC men’s basketball team knocked off the Clemson Tigers in Chapel Hill—winning 80-69 on Wednesday night in a game that opened conference play for both teams.

”We didn’t talk about [the streak] much as a team,” UNC point guard Marcus Paige said after the game.

“But me and Brice [Johnson] and some of the older guys knew about it,” he added. “So we were telling the younger guys like, ‘Yo, it can’t be us. They’re like, 0-57—never won in Chapel Hill. We’re not coming back in this locker room being the only ones that have given up a game to Clemson here.’”

Theo Pinson had a career-high 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting--including a critical three-pointer. (Todd Melet)

Theo Pinson had a career-high 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting–including a critical three-pointer. (Todd Melet)

Paige scored 18 points not only to keep the streak alive, but to help move the Tar Heels to 12-2 on the year and 1-0 in the ACC.

The Tigers played a tough, physical game, but fell to 7-6 overall, and 0-1 against conference foes, after coming up short yet again in Chapel Hill.

Despite getting just three points from Johnson—the team’s leading scorer this season—UNC head coach Roy Williams received an outstanding performance from a pair of super substitutes.

Theo Pinson and Isaiah Hicks were huge for us coming off the bench,” Williams said.

“Didn’t get much out of Brice [Johnson] tonight, and he’s been off the charts [recently],” he continued. “I think he started reading his pub and thinking he was All-World—forgot the work part of it. But we got by with Brice having one of the worst games I’ve ever seen him [have.]”

Hicks had 14 points and Pinson had 13, as the two combined to shoot 10-for-11 from the floor—including Pinson’s three-for-three performance from long range, one of which came late in the second half with Clemson within just six points.

It was part of a game-deciding run where the Tar Heels scored on six straight possessions, distancing themselves using a small lineup consisting of Hicks and four perimeter players—a ploy Clemson head coach Brad Brownell was not expecting.

“You don’t see North Carolina downsize very much,” Brownell said. “And they downsized against us.

“When Theo Pinson makes three threes it’s tough,” the visiting coach added. “We gave him a couple in some situations and he knocked ‘em in. Those were big baskets.”

Brownell’s Tigers got 15 points from their leading scorer Jaron Blossomgame, but got into deep foul trouble with big men Landry Nnoko and Sidy Djitte each having to sit out extended minutes.

The Tar Heels also played much better defensively compared to recent outings, as they held Clemson to 39 percent shooting, and to just a 7-for-19 mark from behind the three-point line.

Another rare sight came on the game’s final basket, with Hicks finding Paige on the fast break for what became just the third dunk of the senior’s career. Excited afterwards, the 6-foot guard pulled himself up on the rim for emphasis.

Marcus Paige slams home just the third dunk of his college career. (Todd Melet)

Marcus Paige slams home just the third dunk of his college career. (Todd Melet)

“You know, guys that don’t get a lot of dunks don’t know how to act when they get a dunk,” Paige said. “It’s funny because Brice dunks more than anyone and sometimes it looks like he doesn’t know how to act, or like he’s never dunked the ball before.

“Now I know how it feels,” he continued, laughing.

Joel Berry had 16 points for UNC and Justin Jackson had 13 to join Paige, Hicks and Pinson in double figures on a night where five players combined to score all but six of the Tar Heels’ points.

Although Clemson may not be the ACC’s most talented team, Pinson says this game ought to put fear in the eyes of UNC’s upcoming opponents.

“It’s just a little momentum going into the ACC season, honestly,” Pinson said. “I think it scares a lot of people just seeing what we can do when Brice is struggling and with Kennedy [Meeks] not out [there] and stuff like that.

“So it was a big time [win for us].”

Up Next:

Conference play will continue to come at the Tar Heels quickly, as they’ll have a couple nights off before returning to the court at the Dean Dome on Saturday afternoon to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-3).

Game Notes:

  • Former UNC legend–and 1982 National Champion–Sam Perkins was in attendance, and spoke to the team in the locker room after the game. Matt Doherty, the team’s former head coach, was also at the game.
  • This was the 26th time in 28 games that the Tar Heels have beaten the Tigers by 10 or more points in Chapel Hill.
  • Paige has made a three-pointer in a school-record 38 consecutive games (last 30 games of last season and his first eight games in 2015-16). The previous record was 34 games by Shammond Williams, Rashad McCants and Hubert Davis.
  • Pinson’s 13 points were a career-high.



Russell Athletic Bowl: No. 17 Baylor Tramples No. 10 UNC 49-38

The UNC football team’s quest to win 12 games in a season for the first time in school history will have to wait. The No. 10 Tar Heels traveled to Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl, where they were dealt a crushing blow on Tuesday night, falling 49-38 to the No. 17 Baylor Bears.

UNC finishes the 2015 season at 11-3 after one of the most successful campaigns the program has ever had. Although there was loads of excitement surrounding the idea of a 12-win year entering the game, the Tar Heels simply could not keep up with the pure speed possessed by Baylor.

Missing their top two quarterbacks, Baylor used a plethora of running backs and wide receivers—four in total—behind center to finish the year 10-3.

“I don’t know if people can give that staff enough credit for what they did,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said about his opponents after the game. “There aren’t many teams in the country that end up playing their third and fourth quarterbacks and still win ten games

Baylor ran all over UNC throughout the game, to the tune of an all-time bowl record 645 yards. [Photo by Smith Cameron Photography]

Baylor ran all over UNC throughout the game, to the tune of an all-time bowl record 645 yards. [Photo by Smith Cameron Photography]

The result was an unstoppable offense that gashed Fedora’s team for an all-time college football postseason record 645 yards on the ground—including 299 by one man, Johnny Jefferson.

Baylor ran a total of 102 plays, 84 of which were rushes, operating at warp speed as it scored touchdowns on seven of its 11 drives in the game—completely draining the Tar Heel defense.

“They did a great job with their scheme,” Fedora said. “They ran just about every Wildcat scheme you can possibly run with multiple quarterbacks in the game—which kept [us] a little bit off balance.

“[We] still had the threat of throwing,” the coach continued. “[We] didn’t know that they weren’t going to throw. But they didn’t have to. [We] had too many missed tackles in the open field, and then guys not fitting the right gaps.”

In his final game as UNC’s starting quarterback, senior Marquise Williams threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing 17 times for 81 yards and a pair of scores.

Sophomore Elijah Hood also carried the ball 13 times for 118 yards for the Tar Heels, who scored the game’s first touchdown but fell behind 28-17 by halftime thanks to their complete inability to stop the run.

They scored a touchdown right after the break to pull within four, but Baylor responded with one of its own on the following drive.

Senior offensive guard Landon Turner waves goodbye as he exits the field for the last time as a Tar Heel. [Photo by Smith Cameron Photography]

Senior offensive guard Landon Turner waves goodbye as he exits the field for the last time as a Tar Heel. [Photo by Smith Cameron Photography]

Then with a chance to answer right back, UNC tailback TJ Logan fumbled as he was attempting to cross the goal line. Baylor recovered for a touchback, then scored on an 80-yard mad dash by Jefferson on the very next play.

“That was a 14-point swing,” Fedora said. “I mean, we’re going in the end zone, then two plays later they’re in their end zone. [If we] put seven on the board for us, take seven off it for them—then, you know, it’s a game.”

Although momentum was on Baylor’s side the rest of the way, the Tar Heels never quit fighting.

The team scored touchdowns on two of its final three possessions as it put the finishing touches on this fantastic campaign.

Despite losing the last two games of the season to a pair of teams picked by many as national championship contenders in the preseason, Fedora says there’s no reason he can’t get his team to that level in the near future.

“Our fans are starting to realize that the vision we’ve been selling for the last four years can really happen,” the coach said. “We can play with anybody in the country.

“Why not Carolina?” he added. “We can be in those conversations of a national championship. And we’ve always believed that since we got here, and we’re gonna continue to preach that.”

Up Next:

UNC will return a great deal of talent for 2016, and will feature the debut of Mitch Trubisky as the team’s full-time starting quarterback.

The Tar Heels will begin next season much like they did this year’s–with a season opening game against an SEC opponent. They will take on the Georgia Bulldogs in Atlanta on September 3rd, 2016 in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game.

Game Notes:

  • Junior wide receiver Mack Hollins, UNC’s top deep threat, was ejected from the game in the third quarter for targeting due to a helmet-to-helmet hit he gave to a Baylor defender while blocking.
  • UNC finishes the year having scored 570 points–the most in school history.
  • Marquise Williams ends his career having accounted for the third most touchdowns (99) in ACC history.
  • Johnny Jefferson’s 299 rushing yards were the most ever surrendered by a Tar Heel team to a single player, and Baylor’s 645 were the most ever recorded by a team in a bowl game.



Seeking Historic Win, UNC Set For Bowl Shootout With Baylor

In its attempt to become the first football team in UNC history to reach 12 wins in a single season, the No. 10 Tar Heels are in Orlando on Tuesday for the Russell Athletic Bowl, where they will look to defeat the No. 17 Baylor Bears—a team similar to UNC in more ways than one.

The fireworks the 11-2 Tar Heels have unleashed this season on offense have the team ranked first nationally in yards per play (7.33).

Second place in that category, however, belongs to the Bears (7.25), who run a nearly identical scheme to the one used by UNC head coach Larry Fedora.

Tar Heels vs Wolfpack

Marquise Williams will get one final chance to shine in a Tar Heel uniform against Baylor. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“They’re pretty phenomenal in what they do,” Fedora said. “When they say they spread the field, they spread the field. They widen you out. Those receivers will be outside the numbers.

“That’s a lot of room to cover to stop the running game,” the coach continued. “And you gotta make a decision—what you’re gonna do–because they can beat you with [the run or the pass].”

Injuries have decimated Baylor’s personnel heading into the season finale. Once 8-0 and a prime playoff contender, the Bears come into this game at 9-3 after losing their top two quarterbacks and the man many consider to be the best receiver in college football—Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman.

Despite those setbacks, Fedora is still wary of sleeping on any offense put together by Baylor head coach Art Briles, who was a prominent high school coach in Texas in the mid-1990’s while Fedora was an assistant nearby at—of all places—Baylor.

“I remember him showing me his call sheet one day for a game,” Fedora said about Briles. “And it was a piece of paper.

“First of all, I’d had to have a magnifying glass just to read all of it,” he added. “Every centimeter of the paper was taken up in handwritten calls. It was pretty cool.”

The game itself is expected to be played in warp-speed thanks to the philosophies of both coaches.

Because of that, though, one mistake could turn into a big deficit on the scoreboard.


Baylor will be down to its third-string quarterback, Chris Johnson, for the bowl game. (AP Photo/ Tony Gutierrez)

It will be up to UNC senior quarterback Marquise Williams—playing in his final game—to keep this group on pace for all four quarters against the athletic Baylor pass rush.

If he can do that, the 2015 team will emphatically leave its lasting mark in Chapel Hill—the happy ending Williams and his fellow seniors have desperately searched for since arriving on campus just a few, short years ago.

“We wanna win this 12th game,” Williams said. “We wanna leave our legacy. And that’s the thing.

“Juniors, sophomores, freshmen—they wanna win that 12th game. They wanna send us out on a good note, so we can always remember that we won 12 games.”

Broadcast Information:

The Tar Heels’ quest for 12 wins will kick-off Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and can be heard on WCHL’s airwaves (97.9 FM, 1360 AM). It will also be televised on ESPN.

Game Notes:

  • This marks the first time UNC has played in a bowl game in which both teams were ranked since the 1996 Gator Bowl when the No. 10 Tar Heels beat No. 25 West Virginia.
  • UNC junior kicker Nick Weiler is 19-of-22 on field goal attempts this season, and has tallied 119 points–just seven shy of the school record set by Don McCauley in 1970.
  • Carolina is the first ACC team since 1991 (Clemson) to play in an Orlando bowl game after completing an undefeated regular season conference schedule.
  • This year’s Russell Athletic Bowl marks just the second matchup between teams with a combined 20 wins (2013- Louisville vs. Miami).

No. 7 UNC Crushes UNC-Greensboro In Final Tune-Up Before ACC Play Begins

The No. 7 UNC men’s basketball team closed out its non-conference schedule in resounding fashion on Monday night at the Dean Dome, defeating the UNC-Greensboro Spartans 96-63.

The Tar Heels came out of the gates strong as they improved to 11-2, quickly building a double-digit lead.

However, they allowed the pesky Spartans—now 4-9 on the year—to stick around with the long ball. After missing its first eight attempts from beyond the arc, UNC-Greensboro connected on nine of its next 18—helping cut a 19-point halftime deficit down to 11 with 11 minutes remaining.

UNC was unable to run away until the game's final ten minutes. (Todd Melet)

UNC was unable to run away until the game’s final ten minutes. (Todd Melet)

Poor defense around the perimeter has become a theme for the Tar Heels, which is a bit unsettling for their head coach, Roy Williams.

“I keep saying to ‘em, ‘Nobody’s ever been the best team unless they guarded people,” Williams said after the game. “And we’re causing a little bit of it because we’re scrambling and gambling a little bit more.

“The more you gamble, the more you open up opportunities for both teams,” the coach continued. “You can open up opportunities for your own team to get turnovers, but when you do scramble you open up some shots because you’ve got two guys guarding one of theirs.”

A pair of freshmen guards, Francis Alonso and Demetrius Troy, combined for 31 points and eight of the nine Spartan threes—something that seemed to bother everyone in the Tar Heel locker room.

But with that complaint aired, Williams was in a positive mood overall with the way his team closed out this early portion of its schedule.

“The game right before the first conference game, if you’re ‘supposed to win’ it’s always a difficult game,” Williams said. “And I think we got through it fine.”

Senior forward Brice Johnson again led the way for the Tar Heels, picking up 16 points and 16 rebounds on his way to yet another double-double—his seventh of the season.

Only four of those points came in the first half though, as Johnson had to work himself back into the game mentally. He then used a pair of thunderous slams after the break to get he and the team’s momentum back on track so they could pull away late.

“Sometimes I get too frustrated with myself and it just psyches me out,” Johnson said. “At halftime I was just like ‘Hey calm down, just play your game, you’re fine.’

UNC Men's Basketball

The Tar Heel bench erupts after a big play. (Todd Melet)

“That worked out for me,” he added. “Then I started having more fun out there.”

Justin Jackson added 14 points, and so did Marcus Paige, who was held to just 21 minutes as he recovers from a jammed ankle he suffered last Monday against Appalachian State.

In total, six Tar Heels reached double figures while another—sophomore Theo Pinson—had eight.

It was a solid all-around performance from nearly everyone involved, which is what excites Jackson heading into the meat of the season.

“We have so many guys,” Jackson said. “We’re so deep. Brice has been playing extremely well the past three or four games, but outside of that, I mean we’ve got guys that can step up every single game.

“You have no idea,” he continued. “One person can have 20 one game, another person can have 20 the next game.”

Photos from UNC vs UNCG

Up Next:

Conference play opens at the Smith Center on Wednesday, as UNC hosts the Clemson Tigers in a rematch of the ACC Football Championship from earlier in the month.

Game Notes:

  • The Spartans were coached by former Tar Heel Wes Miller, who has another Tar Heel alum–Jackie Manuel–as one of his assistants.
  • In December, the Tar Heels are averaging 92 points per game, but have yet to earn fans free biscuits by hitting 100.
  • Brice Johnson is the only UNC player to have scored in double figures in each of the team’s 13 games.
  • Coach Williams said he still has no idea when junior forward Kennedy Meeks (bone bruise on left knee) will be back in the lineup.


No. 7 UNC Cruises Past Appalachian State, Into Winter Break

Although it spent the majority of the game looking like a group ready to go home for the holidays, the No. 7 UNC men’s basketball team cruised to an easy 94-70 win at the Smith Center on Monday over the Appalachian State Mountaineers.

The Tar Heels go into their winter break with a 10-2 record after the win over the over-matched Mountaineers, who drop to 2-9 with the loss.

UNC vs Appalachian State

Brice Johnson led the Tar Heels with 22 points against Appalachian State. (Photo by Todd Melet)

Senior forward Brice Johnson notched his third straight game with at least 20 points, finishing with 22—including 10 in the game’s first three minutes– after scoring a career-high 27 this past Saturday against UCLA. He also grabbed nine rebounds as Appalachian State—without a single player taller than 6-foot-8–struggled to keep up with the UNC frontline as the game wore on.

“I should have gotten 30 last game, but I missed my free throws,” Johnson said after this one finished. “I just wanted to go out there [tonight] and be aggressive like I was the last two games, and just help my team.

“When I’m aggressive and scoring like that, it opens everything up for everybody else,” he added. “And we’re a better team when I do things like that.”

A scary moment occurred in the first half with 9:16 before the break, as UNC senior point guard Marcus Paige landed awkwardly on his right ankle—the same one he had bone spurs taken out of in the offseason–after blocking a three-point attempt.

Paige was checked out in the locker room and initially returned to the game for the second half, getting his point total up to nine—but decided to check himself out with his team well ahead before any further damage could be done.

“I blocked the shot, then I was gonna jump and save it [from going out of bounds],” Paige said. “But it was just a funny landing for me. The area where I had surgery is sometimes sensitive still.

“So it just kind of jammed that specific part of my ankle,” he continued. “It was kind of painful, then I just couldn’t really loosen it up. So I just shut it down.”

Freshman guard Ronshad Shabazz hit a three-pointer for the Mountaineers on the game’s second possession to put them ahead 3-0, but then Johnson’s scoring explosion led the Tar Heels to a double-digit lead over the next few minutes.

UNC stayed in front by between 10 and 20 points for essentially the entire game, but Shabazz scored 21 to help his team stick around, as they trailed by only 11 at the half.

Appalachian’s top threat, Shabazz’s backcourt-mate Frank Eaves, had only 13 points and shot just 5-of-13 as UNC head coach Roy Williams made sure to cut the head off the snake in his preparations.

“Frank [Eaves] is a load to guard,” Williams said. “I watched a couple of tapes on him and he’s been incredible. But I thought that Marcus, Nate [Britt], and Joel [Berry]—all three really did a nice job on him.

“He was the focus of our defense because he’s averaging 20 a game, and everybody else [on their team] is less than double figures.”

Again Isaiah Hicks provided the Tar Heels with a solid contribution off the bench with Kennedy Meeks sidelined, scoring 12 points to give him four straight games with at least 10.

UNC vs. Appalachian State

Isaiah Hicks slams one home against Appalachian State. (Photo by Todd Melet)

The team also received double-doubles from Justin Jackson, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Joel Berry, who did it by scoring 11 and dishing out 11 assists.

Not until there were just over five minutes to play, though, did UNC comfortably get the lead past 20 points.

Some of that may be chalked up to the fact that the game was played by college kids who could smell the thought of no responsibilities right around the corner—something Johnson alluded to when speaking with reporters.

“It was kind of tough,” the Orangeburg, SC native said. “I was ready to go home. Because last year around this time we played Ohio State [in Brooklyn], then we went straight home. This year we played UCLA [in Brooklyn] and then we had another game, so it was kind of tough.

“By game time—right before the tip-off—I was like ‘OK let’s go, we still have a game to play.’”

While it was by no means the prettiest win his team has put together this season, Williams knows it’ll be enough to keep spirits in the right place over the week-long break before the next game.

“Glad to have a ‘W’,” the coach said. “Glad to do some good things. So everybody can go home and see Santa Claus in a good mood.”

Photos from UNC vs. Appalachian State.

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will be out of action until next Monday, December 28, when they host the UNC-Greensboro Spartans at the Smith Center.

Game Notes:

  • Marcus Paige had nine points and one assist in 17 minutes due to the jammed right ankle. The assist was his 500th, making him the 12th Tar Heel to reach 500 career assists.
  • Appalachian State out-rebounded the Tar Heels, 18-16, and had a 9-5 advantage in second chance points in the first half. In the second half, UNC out-rebounded the Mountaineers, 31-13, and had a 19-6 edge in second-chance points.
  • Johnson tied the all-time UNC record for most consecutive field goals made with 16. He made his last 11 shots from the floor against UCLA and his first five attempts this evening. Brad Daugherty also made 16 in a row over a two-game period against UCLA and Iona to begin the 1985-86 season.


Johnson Benched Early, Responds With 27 Points: No. 11 UNC Beats No. 22 UCLA 89-76

Without the injured Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson continues to thrive—as the junior set a new career-high in points for the second straight game on Saturday, scoring 27 to lead the No. 11 UNC men’s basketball team past the No. 22 UCLA Bruins 89-76 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Tar Heels–who played the game decked out in their brand new black, alternate jerseys–move to 9-2 this year after the win.

The Bruins, meanwhile, fall to 8-4 thanks to a second half surge which was spear-headed by Johnson.

Marcus Paige drives to the hoop while showing off the Tar Heel's new black uniforms. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Marcus Paige drives to the hoop while showing off the Tar Heel’s new black uniforms. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Early on UCLA led by as many as 11, getting four three-pointers by guard Isaac Hamilton, who finished with a team-high 23 points. Most of this occurred with Johnson on the end of the bench, where head coach Roy Williams sat him for around nine minutes as a disciplinary measure.

“I kinda used some bad language and Coach was really pissed off at me about it,” Johnson said after the game. “So he sat me for it.

“It put a fire under my butt,” he added. “When I got back in there, I was ready to go.”

Once he came back in, Johnson wreaked havoc on the Bruin frontline the rest of the way—consistently beating his opponents with rim-rocking slams and nifty right-hand jump hooks.

As Marcus Paige struggled, scoring 10 points on just 2-of-9 shooting, Johnson connected on 11 of his 12 shots from the field—even making 11 in a row at one point.

That allowed the Tar Heels to break open what was a tie game at halftime and turn it into a comfortable win.

It also provided Williams with a sight he is continuously looking for.

“Brice’s energy was so much better in the second half,” Williams said. “I almost hugged him and kissed him one time, then I realized who it was.

“[He’s] gotta do that on a more consistent basis,” the coach added.

Junior forward Isaiah Hicks came off the bench to score 12 points for UNC, which dominated UCLA in the paint—beating them 58 to 26 inside.

Joel Berry provided the bulk of the perimeter scoring for UNC, pouring in 17 points in the game. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Joel Berry provided the bulk of the perimeter scoring for UNC, pouring in 17 points in the game. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Guard Joel Berry provided the bulk of the outside scoring for the Tar Heels, putting up 17 points on a day where the team finished just 4-of-19 from behind the three-point line. Afterwards, Berry discussed his team’s mindset as they came out of the locker room before the second half.

“We just wanted to try and get out on ‘em,” Berry said. “And just try to take ‘em away from the jump, and not give them any confidence to try to stay with us.”

The story of the day, though, was Johnson, who set a career-high for the second consecutive game and has clearly asserted himself with Meeks sidelined.

No bench was going to keep him from making his mark on Saturday, even if it did keep him from scoring 30.

“I knew if I got another chance to go in there, I was gonna be able to do what I needed to do,” Johnson said about what he thought as he sat out. “I’m not gonna regret not giving a second a chance, because I did mess up in the beginning of the game. And I gotta stop doing stuff like that”

And as the season progresses into conference play, a consistent Johnson may just be what the doctor ordered for this team.

“The sky’s the limit for us,” he said. “We haven’t been playing great, but we did get a big-time win today outside of our building. Like Coach always says he wants us to be able to get wins outside of the Smith Center.

“We just gotta keep going.”

More photos from UNC vs. UCLA.

Up Next:

UNC will return home for a game at the Smith Center on Monday against the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Then the team will take a week-long holiday break before resuming play the following Monday.

Game Notes:

  • UCLA guard Bryce Alford, the son of the team’s head coach Steve Alford, scored 15 points in the game, while Bruin big man Tony Parker chipped in 13.
  • UNC won the turnover battle by a large margin, losing the ball just eight times compared to UCLA’s 17.
  • Despite struggling with his shot, Paige dished out six assists and also grabbed four rebounds.


Johnson, No. 11 Tar Heels Conquer the Green Wave

UNC senior forward Brice Johnson, along with the rest of the Tar Heel men’s basketball team, had a night to forget in Saturday’s loss to Texas.

But on Wednesday at the Dean Dome, Johnson scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the No. 11 Tar Heels improved to 8-2 this year with a 96-72 victory over the Tulane Green Wave.

After picking up three fouls in the first half against Texas, Johnson was rendered ineffective for most of the loss. Then he found out that his tag-team partner in the low post—junior Kennedy Meeks—would miss at least two weeks with a bruised left knee.

Isaiah Hicks poured in 11 points off the bench, despite not getting the start in place of the injured Kennedy Meeks. (Todd Melet)

Isaiah Hicks poured in 11 points off the bench, despite not getting the start in place of the injured Kennedy Meeks. (Todd Melet)

He responded by putting together his best game of the season on Wednesday, scoring his 25 points—including a pair of monster alley-oops in the first half– in just 25 minutes as the Tar Heels dropped the Green Wave to 6-5 this season.

“I do feel a little bit more pressure [with Meeks out],” Johnson said after the game. “Just because me and Kennedy are the starters and we do account for a lot of the rebounds. But at the same time, we do have a pretty good rotation of big guys.

“If one of us goes down,” he added. “We have guys that can back them up, and be able to come in and produce.”

Taking Meeks’ spot in the starting lineup was senior Joel James, who finished with four points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes of playing time.

This decision came despite expectations that junior Isaiah Hicks would get the nod instead.

Hicks looked explosive in the first half off the bench, though, and he finished with 11 points—including a couple big dunks of his own.

UNC head coach Roy Williams explained why he started James over Hicks in his postgame press conference.

“I knew I was gonna start Joel [James] because he’s a senior,” Williams said. “He deserved it, he’s done some good things. And also getting him a look.

“But I probably felt like Isaiah may even play more minutes even though Joel started,” the coach added.

“Isaiah does a better job guarding screens on the ball because he’s quicker, but Joel was a force in there defensively clogging the lane up and making a couple of big-time blocks for us too.”

Five other Tar Heels joined Johnson in double figures, including Hicks.

Joel Berry had 12 points and nine assists, Justin Jackson finished with 13 points and seven assists, and Marcus Paige scored 16 points while dishing out seven assists as well.

Theo Pinson also added 10 points.

All in all, the Tar Heels assisted on 30 of their 36 made shots in what Paige considered to be a total team effort.

Marcus Paige had 16 points and seven assists, as UNC assisted on 30 of its 36 made shots. (Todd Melet)

Marcus Paige had 16 points and seven assists, as UNC assisted on 30 of its 36 made shots. (Todd Melet)

“We always try to share the ball,” Paige said. We have a good offensive team. We haven’t struggled on that side of the ball, really all year. We got good post players that shoot and score efficiently. We got guards that can knock down shots and get in the paint and create.

“So there’s no reason the ball should stick.”

UNC led by 19 points at halftime, but Tulane—led by 18 points from guard Louis Dabney—cut the lead to 15 with just eight minutes remaining in the game.

But then the Tar Heels exploded on a 15-0 run behind a three-pointer from Berry and two more from Paige, who has now been back in the lineup for four games since missing time with a broken hand.

Now without Meeks for an extended period—including this weekend’s game in Brooklyn against No. 22 UCLA– Paige sees another chance for his team to grow even closer together.

“It’s just adversity,” Paige said. “Every team deals with it. It happens and it’s unfortunate. We’re hoping that we’ll get him back relatively quickly, so that’s a positive for us.

“We’re just trying to hold the ship until [Meeks] gets back.”

Photos from UNC vs. Tulane

Up Next:

A trip to New York awaits the Tar Heels, as they’ll meet up with head coach Steve Alford’s No. 22 UCLA Bruins in Brooklyn–the same team who handed previous No. 1 Kentucky its only loss of the season.

This is also the game UNC is supposed to break out its much-hyped wardrobe addition–the black, alternate jerseys.

Game Notes:

  • Johnson has six double-doubles in 10 games this year, and is the only Tar Heel to score in double figures in each game.
  • Four different Tar Heels (Berry, Jackson, Hicks, and Luke Maye) set or tied career-highs in assists.
  • The team’s 30 assists were the most by UNC since having 30 against East Tennessee State on Dec. 8, 2012.
  • Prior to the game, Tulane assistant coach Shammond Williams–UNC’s former all-time three-point leader–presented Paige–the school’s new three-point leader–with a ball honoring the achievement.


Hicks Gets His Chance Against Tulane

Down to No. 11 in the most recent AP Top 25 Poll after losing at the buzzer against Texas this past Saturday, the UNC men’s basketball team returns to the Smith Center on Wednesday night to take on the Tulane Green Wave.

Now at 7-2 on the season, the Tar Heels will look to bounce back against Tulane, which enters the game at 6-4 so far this year. But in order to do that, UNC will again have to play without one of its starters.

It was announced recently that junior forward Kennedy Meeks, who is averaging career-highs in both points and rebounds with 12 and 7 per game, will be sidelined for at least the next couple of weeks with a bone bruise on his left knee.

This news comes after the Tar Heels played without senior point guard Marcus Paige for their first six games of the season.

Marcus Paige recently became UNC's all-time leader in three-pointers, moving past Shammond Williams--who is now a Tulane assistant coach. (Todd Melet)

Marcus Paige recently became UNC’s all-time leader in three-pointers, moving past Shammond Williams–who is now a Tulane assistant coach. (Todd Melet)

Head Coach Roy Williams will likely turn to another junior, Isaiah Hicks, to take Meeks’ place in the starting lineup.

Although Hicks is not as physically imposing down low as the 260-pound Meeks, he excelled in preseason scrimmages and could provide a quicker, more explosive option offensively.

Hicks has scored in double figures three times this season, including a season-high 14 in the loss to Texas. But in his three years at UNC he has only played 20 or more minutes in six games, meaning this stretch will be the first extended period fans will get with him.

The Green Wave recently played another ACC opponent, when they came up just eight points short against Georgia Tech back on December 5.

They are led by senior guard Louis Dabney, who is scoring at a clip of 14 points per game—and is one of only two Tulane players averaging double figures.

It will also be a homecoming of sorts for Tulane assistant coach Shammond Williams, a former UNC guard from 1994 to 1998. Williams, who played professionally for 13 years in the NBA and overseas, was the Tar Heels’ all-time leader in three-pointers until last game—when Paige surpassed him.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on WCHL’s airwaves at 97.9 FM and 1360 AM.

UNC Football’s Fifth-Year Seniors Have Seen It All

As UNC’s incredible football season approaches its conclusion, all five of the team’s fifth-year seniors each celebrated another milestone this past Sunday—as they graduated from school and put one of the final touches on their difficult, but triumphant, journeys.

Recruited by former head coach Butch Davis back in 2011, redshirt seniors Marquise Williams, Landon Turner, Jeff Schoettmer, Sam Smiley, and Romar Morris were thrown right into the midst of the NCAA academic scandal as soon as they set foot in Chapel Hill.

Soon after, Davis—the man who brought them here—was fired.

UNC vs Virginia Tech

Marquise Williams has accounted for more touchdowns than any other player in UNC history. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Following a season under interim coach Everett Withers, UNC brought in its third coach in as many years—Larry Fedora.

The team’s record regressed in each of Fedora’s first three seasons, but this year—the last for this senior class—the Tar Heels are 11-2 and on the verge of the first 12-win season in school history.

“Five of them were here before I got here,” Fedora said at his press conference on Tuesday. “You know what they were going through, and what was going on in the program, and what’s gone on for the last four years.”

“I can’t say enough great things about the way these guys have stepped up and provided leadership for this team throughout this season.”

Williams, throughout his time at UNC, has had to face numerous questions about whether he was the right man for the quarterback job.

He was forced to share the role with backup Mitch Trubisky for a good part of last season.

He took the blame for the team’s heartbreaking loss to South Carolina after throwing three interceptions.

He was even suspended for a semester of classes back in the spring of 2013.

Now he’s graduating as arguably the program’s most accomplished signal-caller–and one of only four players in ACC history to account for more than 90 touchdowns in a career.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Williams said with a laugh. “That I’m old now.

“It was a dream come true,” he continued. “I graduated from the best university in the country. I’ll keep that in my mind. A lot of people don’t get this opportunity and [I did].

Not since 1997 had UNC won nine games in a season, let alone 11 or possibly 12.

Still though, if you had told Turner—recently named a First-Team All-American at offensive guard—five years ago that he and his team could reach this point, he wouldn’t have been surprised.

“Whether [earning those accomplishments] was plausible or not, my mom likes to say, ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,’” Turner said.

“That’s not her saying, obviously, someone else came up with it—but she would repeat it a lot,” he added. “And I kind of took that to heart.”

Tar Heels vs Cavaliers

Jeff Schoettmer (10) came to UNC as a walk-on amidst the beginning of the academic scandal. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Coming out of a private high school in Dallas, Schoettmer came to Chapel Hill as an out-of-state student without a scholarship, just a dream that maybe one day he could make some kind of impact.

Now the heart and soul of the team’s defense, he remembers what it was like arriving on campus that same summer, unsure of whether he’d ever get a chance to reach that goal.

“I came in, and then all those NCAA sanctions happened and we got a loss of scholarships,” Schoettmer said. “So I’m sitting there as a walk-on thinking, ‘Dang, I’m never gonna get a scholarship.’

“That just added motivation to me,” he continued. “Because I [had to] work even harder to prove myself and earn one of those scholarships.”

During preparations to face Baylor, Fedora has preached non-stop about what it would mean to get the 12th win. Not just for he and the school, but also for this select group of seniors that have seen the program at its lowest, and now at its highest.

“As you look back on your life, it’s usually the adversity, the hardships, the things that you endure, and things you overcome that mold who you are,” Fedora said in reference to his fifth-year players. “And usually good things come out of those things—they really do.

“If you keep a real positive attitude, you learn from your mistakes, and you grow on a daily basis—usually good things are gonna happen,” the coach added.

“And I think that’s what’s happened this year.”