Game one, down. Game two, incoming.
Joel Berry’s struggles from the second half of last week’s Duke game carried over to the first half of North Carolina’s first game of the ACC Tournament against Syracuse. Berry missed all of his shot attempts in the first half. It wasn’t too much better for the senior captain in the second half, but he was able to knock down two three-pointers and a few free throws to end the game with eight points and four assists. This is the first game of the season for Berry where he took less than 10 shots. It was only his fourth time this season that he has shot worse than 25% from the field. He needed his teammates to step up.
Enter Theo Pinson, Kenny Williams, Cameron Johnson, and Luke Maye. Berry’s starting lineup counterparts did not let their senior leader down. They combined for 59 points on 20-41 shooting, 28 rebounds, 14 assists, and seven steals. This win was really the definition of a team-effort.
Theo Pinson finished with his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Pinson also finished four assists shy of a triple-double. Two of his six assists came toward the end of the game when he made two perfect “touchdown“ passes from the baseline to Kenny Williams down court. He made the plays that needed to be made and played within his own strengths.
Kenny Williams had the quietest double figure scoring output of the game. Williams lead the team in scoring with 17 points and field goal percentage on 7-11 shooting. Williams was the recipient of Pinson’s perfect passes when Syracuse went to the full-court press.
Cameron Johnson scored 13, but found himself at the root of making fantastic plays all over the court with four assists and five rebounds. He wasn’t great from three, finishing at 2-6, but he did some of the small things that usually go unnoticed.
Luke Maye started the game red hot, and finished the game with 13 points and nine boards. He played well working inside when Syracuse’s bigs got into foul trouble.
The Tar Heels will need another total team effort against the Miami Hurricanes in the next round. This time, they might not be able to afford another night of Berry struggling.
Andrew Platek probably made the most of his limited minutes. In just five minutes of action, Platek made his only shot attempt, pulled down a steal that lead to a Pinson layup, gave an assist to Luke Maye and had a big time rebound when it looked like Syracuse would make a run.