In our latest Season in Review piece, we look back at an impressive sophomore season from Brice Johnson.
Season stats: 10.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 56.6 FG%, 62.2 FT%
Season in a sentence: After a solid sophomore campaign, Brice Johnson is poised for a breakout junior season.
Season highlights: The sophomore started the season on a tear of five straight double-figure scoring games, including a season-high 24-point, 12-rebound performance against Richmond in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. After back-to-back 14-point outings against Michigan State and UNCG, Johnson had double figures in seven of Carolina's first eight games. He had played especially well in the Tar Heels' marquee wins, as he added six rebounds and two blocks to his 14 points in East Lansing, and had back-to-back baskets to snap a 49-49 tie and send Carolina on a gamebreaking 16-3 run.
Johnson was an all-tournament selection at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off after combining his 24 points against the Spiders with 13 points and five rebounds against defending national champion Louisville.
But a slight mini-slump followed. Johnson made just 18 of his final 42 shots in regular season nonconference play. A 42.9% shooting clip isn't terrible, but it's well off the usual pace for Johnson, who shot 56.6% for the season.
Against the ACC: The lull continued early in conference play. Johnson had a productive 12-point, nine-rebound game in the league opening loss at Wake Forest, but six straight single-digit scoring outings followed, a stretch during which he shot 15-for-36 (41.7%) from the field. Although he scored 10 points in the home win over NC State, Johnson was in a very uncharacteristic 18-for-43 slump when Maryland arrived at the Smith Center.
The Terps proved to be exactly what he needed to reverse the trend. Johnson made all eight of his field goals, grabbed seven rebounds and scored 19 points in helping Carolina to the victory. Eleven of those points came in the second half. In the next game at the Smith Center, Johnson had another influential performance, but this time he did it with defense, blocking a career-high five shots to go with 13 points and seven rebounds in a win over Pitt. In the very next game, Johnson had his second career double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds) in a road win at Florida State.
Johnson had another stellar shooting effort (7-for-9) in a 14-point performance in the rematch against Wake Forest, then quietly made an important subtle play in a victory at NC State, as his screen helped clear the lane for Marcus Paige's game-winning drive. The sophomore had a big basket late in Carolina's senior day win over Notre Dame, and then he was one of the only effective rebounders for the Tar Heels in the loss at Duke (Johnson had nine of the team's 20 rebounds).
Postseason: Johnson was one of the few post bright spots in the ACC Tournament loss to Pittsburgh, as he shot 8-for-9 from the field on his way to a 16-point, six-rebound performance. He followed that up with an excellent outing against Providence in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 16 more points to go with eight rebounds and four blocked shots in the win over the Friars. Four of those rebounds were offensive, and he turned all four into second-chance baskets.
So Johnson seemed poised for another big performance against Iowa State, and he quickly scored two points and grabbed two offensive rebounds in his first two minutes of action against the Cyclones. But then he suffered a sprained right ankle with 14:41 left in the first half after stepping on another player's foot, and was unable to return to the game.
Season stats: 54.4%: Johnson's career field goal percentage after two seasons, which ranks in Carolina's top 25 all-time.
114.3: Johnson's offensive rating according to Ken Pomeroy, the second-highest on this year's team (Marcus Paige's rating was 120.1) and the highest for a UNC big man since Tyler Zeller posted a 121.0 in 2012.
Adam Lucas is the editor of CAROLINA.