The Tar Heels’ win over Florida State on Saturday was another game where it was truly difficult to pick just one player to be awarded the game ball. Every guy on the team stepped up in his own way to deliver something important to the win.
Luke Maye, who had a tragic couple minutes in the misses and turnovers department, scored only two points. However, he had a career-high in rebounds with 15 and two long passes for easy baskets on the other end. Joel Berry II was outstanding once again, serving as the motor behind Carolina on his way to a team-high 26 points.
Isaiah Hicks played possibly his best game of the season, scoring 22 points and limiting his foul trouble. He shot 14 free throws in the game and made 12 of them. Justin Jackson sank three three-pointers in his 22-point day.
There is certainly a lot of love to go around after beating a quality conference opponent like Florida State. However, the game ball goes to Theo Pinson. Pinson returned to the court on Sunday after a foot injury that kept him out of the first part of the season. He made an immediate impact on the stats sheet, but not in the points column. His presence was felt all over the court but his shots weren’t falling.
In the win over the Seminoles, Pinson scored 12 points off the bench and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double double. His soaring tomahawk dunk will likely be replayed many, many times this season. It electrified the crowd at the Smith Center, and further energized his team. That’s kind of what Theo does.
Oh yeah, and Pinson was forced into duty as the team’s “center” for a stretch during the game while Roy Williams deployed a smaller-than-small lineup (due to foul trouble and the absence of Tony Bradley) against a Florida State team that sports two guys over seven feet tall. Pinson, all six feet, six inches of him, took the challenge in stride.
The dunk and a late-game three are certainly great ways to get back into the scoring groove. What Pinson has been able to show even without scoring is evidence of why the Tar Heels missed him on the court. Add more offense to the equation and things just get better from there.
So many players did so many good things against Florida State. Take away any of the individual performances and you’re likely looking at a different outcome for UNC on Saturday. They were all important to the end result.
Pinson’s personal performance may carry higher value because it hopefully signals a sign of things to come. He was back, in a physical sense, two games prior to Florida State, but it was Saturday afternoon with a slam when he truly returned.
Welcome back, Theo.