Oh hey Brice Johnson.
UNC got 19 points and 17 rebounds from Brice Johnson, 19 points and eight assists from J.P. Tokoto and 12 points and 11 rebounds from Kennedy Meeks on the way to a 108-64 drubbing of East Carolina to move to 6-2 on the season.
If you go back to just after the loss to Iowa, Brice Johnson was clearly bothered by his level of play. Against Iowa, Johnson struggled to get rebounds and make even layups against the Hawkeyes. He also had been plagued by foul trouble for a five game stretch limiting his minutes a. Johnson plainly stated following the loss to the Hawkeyes that he needed to "stop being a baby" and step his game up. That was clearly on display. Johnson played with effort, was physical and grabbed a career high 17 rebounds to go along with 9-15 shooting night. At one point Johnson missed a shot then dove on the floor after the ball forcing a jump ball. His focus and effort was a clear shift from what happened in the previous five games. Johnson's rebounding total was the most by a Tar Heel in a game in both this season and last. Per UNC, Johnson's first half double-double was the first of those in a half by a UNC player since John Henson vs Elon four years ago.
J.P. Tokoto raised his level of play, especially from a shooting standpoint. Tokoto hit 7-12 from the floor and dished out eight assists.
"I did look for my shot a little but more today, I was a little bit more aggressive." Tokoto said. "My very first shot went in so I kind of had the mindset that if I had a good shot I was going to take it."
Tokoto also went 5-5 at the free throw line continuing his substantial improvement from last season there. The junior wing forward is now 26-35 from the line which is 75%, a marked improvement from last season.
Overall UNC executed well on both ends of the floor, got out in transition and controlled the boards. Kennedy Meeks joined Johnson in the double-double with his fifth of the season. Marcus Paige continued to struggle a bit with his jumper but drove to the basket for his offense to finish with eight points and six assists against a single turnover. Nate Britt scored 10 points including a couple of long jumpers with the flow of the offense and Joel Berry posted a career high eight points.
For the game UNC shot 60% from the floor including 72% after halftime and was 13-16 at the free throw line.
This was a "take care of business game" for UNC. The Heels needed to shake off a bad loss and have key players play well. While it is "only East Carolina" players like Brice Johnson were in such a complete funk that it really didn't matter who the game was against, he needed a confidence boost. As WIlliams noted, Johnson was simply grabbing rebounds as a function of superior athleticism or size, he battled in traffic and played aggressively but committed just two fouls. The question regarding Johnson and the team in general is if they can bring this caliber of play six days from now when the Heels step on the court to face a deep and loaded #1 Kentucky team in Lexington.