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Pinson Crashes Press Conference Then Crushes Notre Dame's Hopes

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, when UNC's five starters and Roy Williams were addressing the media, Theo Pinson wandered onto the dais interrupting the session. It was the latest episode of Theo Pinson being Theo Pinson, the one player in the locker room who keeps the atmosphere light and his teammates loose. While his presence in the locker room definitely serves a purpose to facilitate the team chemistry, his play on the court versus Notre Dame keyed UNC's poised second half response to seize control of the game.

After taking a five point lead going into halftime, UNC got eight straight points from Kennedy Meeks to open the half. That pushed the Tar Heel lead to 11 and it felt like UNC was in the verge of blowing the game open. Notre Dame had other plans and responded with a 12-0 to retake the lead. Brice Johnson's ill-timed technical foul didn't help. The Tar Heels saw a double digit lead vanish in a matter of minutes. UNC's toughness and poise would once again be tested.

Enter Theo Pinson.

Marcus Paige's layup put UNC back in front but after that Pinson's play proved critical in fueling UNC's own 12-0 run. Pinson tipped the ball away from Bonzie Colson then went to the floor to grab it and ask for a timeout before the jump ball was called. UNC scored out of a timeout to get the lead back to three. On the next Irish possession, Pinson drew an offensive foul on a moving screen to get the ball back. After a pair of Paige free throws and a defensive stop Pinson attacked in transition to draw Zach Auguste third foul then following another defensive stop drove the lane for a layup to put UNC ahead by nine. The play of the game came after Paige beat Auguste for a rebound then saved it to Meeks who hit Pinson with a long outlet pass. Pinson tossed the alley-oop to Isaiah Hicks to put UNC up 11.

Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson broke the Irish drought with a pair of free throws but again it was Pinson who responded. Nate Britt's three was off the mark but Pinson crashed the boards, grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on the putback to put UNC 11 again. For the game, Pinson had a rather benign looking stat line with six points and four assists but his play was more valuable that the stat sheet would indicate.

For his effort, Pinson got his spot in the postgame press conference alongside Roy Williams, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. When he finished, he took his name card with him as a souvenir. He earned it and his second half play was a key factor in earning UNC its 19th trip to the Final Four.