<span class="vcard">Rob Dauster</span>

North Carolina forward Brice Johnson, right, reacts after dunking over Florida State center Boris Bojanovsky in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Brice Johnson’s 39 points, 23 boards paces No. 6 UNC to win at Florida State

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Brice Johnson had 39 points on 14-for-16 shooting from the floor to go along with 23 boards, three blocks and three steals as No. 6 North Carolina went into Tallahassee and knocked off Florida State, 106-90, in a game that may not have actually featured a stop in the second half.

Marcus Paige added 30 points, five boards and five assists for the Tar Heels, who overcame another terrific performance out of Xavier Rathan-Mayes. The Florida State sophomore scored 20 of his 30 points in the first half, which followed up the 35 points he put on the Heels last season. He was lights out in the first half, his hot shooting what kept the Seminoles from getting run out of the gym early on. North Carolina was up 19-5 at one point.

The Seminoles are actually pretty dangerous this season. XRM is a talented playmaker, and while he’s struggled a bit this season with his offense, the freshmen duo of Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon — who combined for 33 points on Monday night — have more than made up for that. Throw in Montay Brandon, and this FSU team can trot out a four-guard lineup that is tough for anyone to matchup with. As a matter of fact, North Carolina didn’t pull away until they went small, matching FSU’s four-guard lineup.

But the story of this game was the big fella.

Brice Johnson, man.

How about this factoid: Johnson is the first player in North Carolina history to score 30 points and grab 20 rebounds in a game. Think about all of the great players that have worn Tar Heel Blue. Think about all of the Hall of Famers and All-Americans that Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge and Roy Williams have churned out.

That kind of puts this performance into perspective, doesn’t it?

(UPDATE: It turns out Johnson is the second Tar Heel to do this. Billy Cunningham had 48 and 25 against Tulane on Dec. 10, 1964 and 40 and 28 vs. Maryland on Jan. 13, 1964.)

He was at his best in the second half, scoring 28 of his 39 points and completely controlling the paint on both ends of the floor. He blocked shots, he attacked the offensive glass, he cleaned up misses in traffic. His second half was as dominant of a performance as you are going to see in college basketball this season, and it’s really making North Carolina fans forget about the fact that they have yet to get Kennedy Meeks back from his knee injury.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: The keys to tonight’s Kansas-Oklahoma game

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) celebrates at a timeout during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. Seldon scored 24 points in the game. Kansas defeated Baylor 102-74. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 2 Oklahoma at No. 1 Kansas, 9:00 p.m.

We’ve already written about the significance of this matchup, so here we’re going to take you through some of the keys to the game:

  • Which star gets it rolling?: The roster makeup of these two teams is pretty similar. They have a talented, three-guard back court with an All-American candidate on the wing, namely Wayne Selden and Buddy Hield. Both have proven to be more than capable when it comes to scoring in bunches and I’d be surprised if the two weren’t matched up against each other for much of the night (Oklahoma likes to switch all exchanges in their man-to-man defense, so it’s unknown just how long that will happen). Hield had a reputation for being a lockdown defender when he first arrived at Kansas. Does that shine through tonight, or will Selden and company be able to slow down a player that is averaging 24.7 points?
  • Transition points: Both Kansas and Oklahoma love to get out and run the floor, but the transition game is going to be more important for Oklahoma for a couple of reasons: 1. More than 23% of their offensive possessions come in transition, and, on the season, they average just 0.964 points-per-possession in half court offense, according to Synergy. Kansas, meanwhile, is seventh nationally in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. So it will be important for Oklahoma to get easy baskets, particularly early in the game; it’s easy to dig a hole you can’t climb out of in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. They’re also going to want to prevent Kansas from getting too many transition opportunities, as the last thing they need is to deal with how frenzied Phog can get after a big dunk or a couple of easy threes. 6-0 spurts can turn into 12-0 runs really easily there.
  • Who wins the battle up front?: Perry Ellis vs. Ryan Spangler is the matchup that everyone knows about, but the interesting part about both these teams is that they’re still trying to solidify their rotation in the middle. Oklahoma’s Khadeem Lattin has been promising in his minutes, but he’s not going to put fear in opposing coaches. Kansas center Hunter Mickelson has seemingly grasped onto the final starting spot, but the Jayhawks basically play center by committee.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. No. 6 North Carolina will pay a visit to Tallahassee to take on Florida State in a game they absolutely can lose. The Seminoles have a really talented backcourt and the ability to play four guards. The Tar Heels better show up ready to play.
  2. No. 17 West Virginia will make one of their long road trips, as they head to TCU after playing at Kansas State over the weekend.
  3. No. 4 Virginia heads to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. The world will be a better place when/if this in-state rivalry becomes, you know, a rivalry.
  4. Youngstown State visits Oakland, meaning that it is Kahlil Felder time.

 

AP Poll: Kansas is the new No. 1 team in the country, too

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Kansas jumped up into first place in the latest AP Poll, vaulting the Denzel Valentine-less Michigan State Spartans and remaining slotted above Oklahoma, who received 21 first place votes of their own.

Oklahoma and Kansas play each other tonight. Which will be awesome.

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There are a couple of weird rankings here that I can’t really wrap my head around. For starters, Arizona is ranked above Providence despite the fact that Providence beat them on a neutral court. And Xavier is ranked above Villanova despite the fact that, roughly 96 hours ago, Villanova beat Xavier by 31 points.

Someone explain that one to me.

[PLAYER OF THE WEEK | TEAM OF THE WEEK]

Anyway, here is the full AP Poll. The NBCSports.com Top 25 — way more accurate and reliable, I might add — can be found here.

1. Kansas (12-1, 44)
2. Oklahoma (12-0, 21)
3. Maryland (13-1)
4. Virginia (12-1)
5. Michigan State (14-1)
6. North Carolina (13-2)
7. Arizona (13-1)
8. Providence (14-1)
9. Kentucky (11-2)
10. Xavier (13-1)
11. Villanova (12-2)
12. Miami (12-1)
13. Iowa State (11-2)
14. Duke (12-2)
15. SMU (13-0)
16. Louisville (12-2)
17. West Virginia (12-1)
18. Butler (11-3)
19. Iowa (11-3)
20. Purdue (13-2)
21. Texas A&M (11-2)
22. South Carolina (13-0)
23. UConn (10-3)
24. Pittsburgh (12-1)
25. Dayton (11-2)