Last time we saw UNC take on a good, highly-ranked team, they looked completely lost against Michigan. Even the seniors, who you would hope wouldn’t be as affected in games like that. Flash forward a couple weeks, and it was a very different story.
Yes, Gonzaga was missing some players, and yes, it was far from a picture perfect performance. However, the Tar Heels played extremely well, especially against a legitimate top five team. They were able to win thanks to a pretty good all-around performance, spearheaded by one of those aforementioned seniors.
Cameron Johnson led Carolina, and the game, in scoring, going for 25 points against Gonzaga. He did it on 8-12 shooting, knocking down six of eight three point attempts. Add in four assists and three rebounds, and that was more than enough to get player of the game honors.
With the teams traded baskets early, Johnson hit a three with just under 15:00 left in the first half. That kicked off a run where UNC turned a four-point deficit into a 17-point lead. The seniors scored 10 of the Tar Heels’ 34 points in that stretch. Two of those points came on this dunk:
While North Carolina never trailed again after that, things weren’t always smooth sailing. Gonzaga got as close as eight points down two different times in the second half. A couple times, it was Johnson who came up with a big shot to help stymie the Zags’ mini runs.
The other player in the run for player of the game was Seventh Woods, who arguably had his best performance as a Tar Heel. Woods scored a career high 14 points, while also getting four assists and four rebounds. It seems crazy to write off Luke Maye, and his 20 and 16, but he had a couple ugly turnovers. He was mostly good other than that, but turnovers were the main thing that kept the game close. It was far from just him, but some of his directly led to baskets at the other end.
Coming into this season, Johnson had eight career games of 20 or more points. He already has four this year. So far this season when UNC has needed someone to answer the call, he’s been the one to do it the most.