Ex-Pitt star Cameron Johnson part of powerful North Carolina offense | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World Sports

Ex-Pitt star Cameron Johnson part of powerful North Carolina offense

Associated Press
North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson, a transfer from Pitt, leads the team in scoring.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Cameron Johnson swears there’s no deals among North Carolina’s top three scorers determining who gets to lead the offense in each game. It sure seems that way sometimes, though.

The graduate wing, freshman point guard Coby White and senior Luke Maye have proven capable of carrying the Tar Heels on any given night. That has given the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region multiple ways to run their offense, whether through Johnson on the wing, Maye’s inside-out game or White’s ability to attack from anywhere.

And that makes them versatile enough to pivot against most any defensive gameplan entering Friday’s game against 16th-seeded Iona in Columbus, Ohio.

“I’ll tell you one thing: There’s no meeting before the game where it’s, ‘All right, Coby this is your game. Luke this is your game,’ ” Johnson said Tuesday. “It just happens in the flow of the game.

“It’s just kind of been our team dynamic. Throughout our play in practice, you’ll see players kind of get hot in certain moments and we kind of right that in practice, so we’re used to it.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-8 graduate transfer from OLSH in his second year with the Heels after leaving Pitt, is the leading scorer at 16.9 points. White has been terrific at pushing the tempo and attacking off the dribble to average 16.3 points. Then there’s Maye, the 6-8 forward averaging a double-double (14.7 points, 10.5 rebounds).

Combining to average 47.9 points, they represent the Tar Heels’ highest-scoring trio in a decade — when Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington (53.1) led the Tar Heels to Roy Williams’ second NCAA championship in Detroit.

Williams said that 2009 winner — which included eventual NBA players such as Danny Green and Ed Davis — was a deeper team with more scoring options beyond the top three. By comparison, this year’s team is more reliant on Johnson, White and Maye to carry the load.

Johnson has been the most efficient of the three, shooting nearly 51 percent overall and ranking fifth nationally in 3-point percentage (.465). White and Maye are both shooting 43 percent.

“They’ve done a great job,” Williams said, then paused to correct himself. “I shouldn’t say great job because I’m after them for their field-goal percentages, too, because I want guys to very efficient. But we’ve needed every point they’ve given us. There’s no question about that.”

White became the first freshman in program history to have three 30-point games this season, and Maye cracked 30 points twice, including in UNC’s win at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. As for Johnson, he’s had 10 20-point games, including in two of three matchups against the No. 1 overall tournament seed Blue Devils.

The Tar Heels (27-6) need them all to keep shooting, too.

“They know what’s a good shot and what’s not,” senior guard Kenny Williams said. “But I think the unselfishness is a big part of it. They want the team to win. … If there’s somebody that’s got it going, we’re going to keep trying to find them.”

Categories: Sports | US-World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.