An early Christmas present for North Carolina big man — and avid curse artist — Brice Johnson. UNC’s senior forward is coming into his own when his team needs him most, and in the wake of two big games in the past six days, he’s our Player of the Week.
Johnson averaged 26.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in UNC’s wins over UCLA and Tulane. What’s most important: Johnson woke up and played big without his frontcourt teammate, Kennedy Meeks, who’s out for at least another week with a bone bruise in his left knee.
“When Brice shows some effort and gets across the lane and draws outside the lane and gets a charge or deflects a shot, the rest of the defense gets so much better because he has the ability to block some shots,” Roy Williams said after UNC’s 89-76 victory against UCLA.
Johnson put up his career high in points in successive games. Marcus Paige is UNC’s most important player, but when Johnson consistently provides production and plays at both ends of the floor, his teammates absolutely respond. North Carolina’s win doesn’t happen unless Johnson catalyzes the comeback. Come the end of the season, the difference between a win and a loss in that game will make a difference in NCAA Tournament seeding.
The funny part is, Johnson had to sit for eight minutes in the first half of the UCLA game because Williams heard him cursing. Funnier? Johnson dropped an almost-curse in explaining getting put in timeout.
“I kind of used some bad language, and coach was really pissed off at me for it,” Johnson said on Saturday. “So he sat me for it. It put a fire under my butt. When I got back in there, I was ready to go. I’ve got to learn from that. Even my dad tells me the same thing, I need to change my language sometimes. Sometimes it gets the best of me. I’ve just got to make better decisions when I come off the court, not yelling profanity and saying things like that.”
Johnson’s damn terrific double performance barely edged him past SMU’s Jordan Tolbert, who averaged 19 points and 21 rebounds in his team’s home wins over Hampton and Nicholls State.
By the way, a shout to Oakland’s Kahlil Felder, who put up 38 points nine assists and six rebounds in his team’s 97-83 win at Washington. As a rule, we try to award Player of the Week to someone who performed exceptionally well over two games though, and Felder only had one last week. As a consolation, a profile on the dynamic senior point guard is coming to CBSSports.com on Tuesday.
Previous winners this season of the CBS Sports Player of the Week:
Week 1: Grayson Allen, Duke
Week 2: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Week 3: Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
Week 4: A.J. English, Iona
Week 5: Troy Williams, Indiana