Brice Johnson was justifiably thrilled after the North Carolina Tar Heel's scrappy 79-73 win Dec. 29 over the UNLV Runnin' Rebels.
The victory was the start of a "new season," he told Tar Heels Illustrated.
Backups want to shine when they get the chance, and Johnson certainly delivers. The freshman's 12 points against UNLV were especially handy considering starter Reggie Bullock's absence due to concussion.
North Carolina opens ACC play Sunday on the road with the Virginia Cavaliers. Both 10-3 clubs want to win the first game of their conference slate. With losses to Indiana, Texas and Butler already in the books, trumping the Cavs on Sunday should be considered a must for North Carolina.
Bullock may not be cleared to play in time. That means coach Roy Williams needs another Rebel-like night from from Johnson. If James Michael McAdoo continues his dominance in the paint, all should be well.
But, topping the Cavs isn't guaranteed. The Heels can't take this one—or any game—for granted.