The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JONATHAN M. ALEXAN­DER jalexan­[email protected]­sob­server.com Jonathan M. Alexan­der: 919- 829- 4822, @jon­malexan­der


As North Car­olina’s team bus pulled up to Lawrence Joel Coli­seum late Satur­day morn­ing, Cam John­son be­gan to re­mem­ber the last time he was there.

It was Feb. 22 , 2017, and John­son was in a dif­fer­ent uni­form, play­ing for Pitts­burgh. Pitt had grabbed an early 19-point lead over Wake For­est, but it did not last. Wake For­est stormed back be­hind the play of John Collins and de­feated Pitt 63-59.

He said Pitt, that day, thought they had Wake For­est beat and it was a mis­take.

“I kind of had that in my mind ar­riv­ing at the arena, and I was like ‘I don’t want to lose here again,’” John­son said. “It was a sour time.”

UNC had no prob­lem keep­ing its foot on the gas against Wake For­est and nei­ther did John­son, who trans­ferred to UNC be­fore the 2017-18 sea­son. The Tar Heels stormed out to an 18-0 lead in the game’s first six min­utes and con­tin­ued to build on it. UNC (20-5, 10-2 ACC) beat Wake For­est 95-57.

John­son was on fire. He made his first eight shots and fin­ished with 27 points in 30 min­utes. He was 7-for-10 from be­hind the 3-point line, which was a ca­reer-high.

He was also 4 of 4 from be­hind the 3-point line at half­time. Many of John­son’s shots were open and some in tran­si­tion. Each one felt like a back-breaker for Wake For­est, which found it­self in a deep hole early. The De­mon Dea­cons trailed by as many as 28 points in the first half.

“We knew what he was, go­ing into the ball game,” Wake For­est coach Danny Man­ning said of John­son. “We just didn’t do a good job of (iden­ti­fy­ing) him and tak­ing away his airspace.”

It was a big per­for­mance for John­son, who twisted his an­kle in the sec­ond half of Mon­day’s game against No. 4 Vir­ginia. When John­son came out of the game with a lit­tle more than six min­utes left, the score was tied at 55. He did not re­turn un­til four min­utes of game ac­tion had passed, and dur­ing that time pe­riod, the Tar Heels scored two points. He was not as ef­fec­tive when he re­turned. The Cava­liers ended the game on a 21-6 run and beat the Tar Heels 69-61.

But with five days in be­tween their next game, the ex­tra days of rest seemed to do the trick for John­son, who did not ap­pear both­ered by the an­kle in­jury at all.

When asked how he felt after the game, John­son said he felt fine. He played that way too. John­son has led the Tar Heels in scor­ing 10 times this sea­son. The Tar Heels are 9-1 in those games.

“Cam shoots the ball great,” se­nior for­ward Luke Maye said. “He has some games where he re­bounds re­ally well and he’s just a re­ally long and ath­letic wing for us that re­ally helps us out in many facets.”

John­son wasn’t the only player knock­ing down 3-point­ers. UNC shot 16-for-25 from be­hind the 3-point line, which is 64 per­cent. It was the third­high­est 3-point per­cent­age for a UNC team in school his­tory, and high­est 3point per­cent­age on the road.

When the Tar Heels are knock­ing down their shots, they are hard to beat.

The Tar Heels have shot 45 per­cent or bet­ter from be­hind the 3-point line in five of their last eight games. They have won all of them.

“Two games ago, Coby was 7-for-10, and I’ve said all the time we’ve got good shoot­ers,” UNC coach Roy Wil­liams said. “We just need to make them in games.”

The Tar Heels shot 62 per­cent from the field over­all.

Had John­son made his eighth 3-pointer, he would have tied a team record for most 3’s in a game. Rashad McCants had eight against Clem­son on March 2, 2004 and Dante Cal­abria had eight against Florida State on Jan. 25, 1995.

Wil­liams tried to run a few plays for John­son be­fore he took him out, but John­son did not break the team record. After he pulled John­son from the game, he joked with the team that he did ev­ery­thing he could to help John­son break the record.

“I called three plays in a row,” Wil­liams joked on bench.

The team laughed and John­son and Wil­liams shook hands.

“I didn’t know there was a school record to be had or any­thing,” John­son said after the game. “I just thought he thought I was hot so he was giv­ing me an­other one. But I ap­pre­ci­ate him do­ing that for me to give me a cou­ple ex­tra.”

No. 8 UNC is tied for sec­ond in the ACC stand­ings ahead of its show­down with No. 2 Duke Wed­nes­day night in Durham.

ROBERT WILLETT rwil­[email protected]­sob­server.com

North Car­olina’s Cameron John­son launches a three-point shot over the Wake For­est de­fense on Satur­day at Lawrence Joel Coli­seum in Win­ston-Salem. John­son led all scor­ers with 27 points in the Tar Heels’ 95-57 vic­tory.

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