He was on the bench once again past year, not by his own choice, as a knee injury forced him to miss the final 14 games of the season.
Six-foot-8 forward Luke Maye and 6-6 wing Theo Pinson did their best to stay in front of their bigger opponents and deny entry passes into low post. "You gotta love the energy". "It's win or go home-bottom line. We gotta come out with our "A" game".
North Carolina leads the all-time series with Texas A&M, 2-1, winning the last two match ups during the 2000 and 2001 season. As a Pitt graduate, Johnson was eligible immediately for the Tar Heels and is their third-leading scorer. He's missed a number of shots from close range and turned the ball over 12 times in his last five games. Following the 2009 championship, North Carolina tied for ninth in the league and was relegated to the 2010 National Invitation Tournament, where it reached the final before falling to Dayton.
But it will only be the fourth time since 1980 that they have reached that round.
Fitting, isn't it, that one of Michael Jordan's records at North Carolina was surpassed in his own building. The Tar Heels saw all five starters score in doubles figures against the Bison, led by junior Kenny Williams' 18 points. His counterpart, A&M's Billy Kennedy, said the Aggies are very familiar with the school roughly 140 miles away from Charlotte, while the same can't be said for North Carolina.
"We knew we couldn't support that much on him", Pinson said.
"We have good players who have really played well", Williams said.
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On the court, the teams also seem like polar opposites. Can the Aggies find a way to slow down the Tar Heels? They led 33-31 with fewer than 4 minutes left in the first half before North Carolina went on a 12-1 run to lead 43-34 by the break.
It will likely be Pinson and Maye who are tasked with keeping Texas A&M's duo in check throughout the evening. Then a trio of Tar Heel turnovers and threes from Michael Buckland and Eli Pepper gave Lipscomb a 12-9 lead at the under-16 timeout.
A&M's frontcourt, led by Davis and sophomore center Robert Williams, is the Aggies' strength. The Tar Heels outrebounded Lipscomb 47-29, and made their presence known in the paint, outscoring the Bisons 42-30. After watching A&M tape before he went to bed Friday night, he said A&M might be the biggest team he's ever faced. Police say the thief also stole a laptop worth $1,200 and a financial document worth about $3,000 belonging to one of the players.
The A&M players know just about everything will be against them on Sunday - the odds, the crowd and all of the history that comes with playing those in Carolina Blue.
Through all that, Friday was the moment that Williams had been yearning for the most.
"We're in their state", A&M junior forward D.J. Hogg said. Pinson committed an offensive foul on the other end, opening the door for the Bisons to string together a pair of baskets.