No. 13 North Carolina hosts Wake Forest in ACC opener
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina has more scoring options now with Cameron Johnson in the lineup.
That should alleviate some of the burden on guard Theo Pinson, whose playmaking abilities are coveted for the No. 13 Tar Heels as they enter Atlantic Coast Conference play.
North Carolina meets visiting Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center, embarking on the first task in trying to repeat its regular-season title from a season ago.
For Pinson, he just wants to get in a good groove.
“I’m a playmaker,” he said. “I don’t know why I would stop doing that.”
Johnson, a graduate transfer from Pittsburgh, has appeared in two games with the Tar Heels (11-2), shooting 3-for-9 on 3-pointers. Pinson is 3-for-25 from long range this season, yet is considered a vital part of the offense.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said the perimeter offense is nice, but it isn’t for everyone.
“You don’t need everybody to shoot 3s,” he said.
But in their most-recent game last Saturday, seven North Carolina players hit at least one 3-point shot in an 86-72 victory against Ohio State in New Orleans. There hadn’t been seven Tar Heels with a trey in the same game in more than five years.
Wake Forest (7-5) counts on interior efficiency from 7-foot-1 center Doral Moore, who’s shooting 81.8 percent (54-for-66) from the field. He leads the country among players with at least five field-goal attempts per game.
“I was worried and I am worried,” Williams said about interior defense and rebounding.
The Tar Heels haven’t played at home since their stunning Dec. 20 loss to Wofford.
This is the 12th consecutive year that North Carolina has won at least 10 games before playing its first ACC game and the third year in a row that the Tar Heels reached the 11-win mark before its conference opener.
The Demon Deacons, who’ve led in the second halves of 10 of their 12 games this season, haven’t won in Chapel Hill since 2009-10.
Wake Forest had its first taste of the season against a ranked opponent last Saturday, losing 79-60 at home to Tennessee.
“We’ve got to go back and put your hard hats on and we’ve got to work,” coach Danny Manning said.
The defeat to Tennessee snapped Wake Forest’s six-game winning streak, which was the longest string of victories in Manning’s four seasons.
“I’m mad. I’m upset,” guard Keyshawn Woods said of suffering another setback. “But we’ve got more games to play.”
A second-half offensive meltdown resulted in the lowest point total of the season for the Demon Deacons.
“It hadn’t been stagnant like that for a while,” guard Mitchell Wilbekin said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us now.”
This is the fourth year in a row that Wake Forest opens its ACC schedule with a road game (and third consecutive season that it comes against a nationally-ranked opponent).
The Demon Deacons would like to snap a couple of skids against North Carolina. They haven’t defeated a ranked team on the road since that Jan. 20, 2010, upset in Chapel Hill, a string of 18 losses. They also have dropped their last six matchups against reigning national champions.
It has been 11 years since the Demon Deacons were successful in an ACC opener played on the road.
North Carolina is 52-12 all-time in ACC openers.
The Tar Heels have begun ACC play against Wake Forest twice under Williams, losing both times (2003-04 at home in triple overtime and 2013-14 in Winston-Salem).