Theo Pinson

Roy Williams
AP Photo/Charlie Niebergall

Issues on both ends result in No. 1 North Carolina’s first loss

Leave a comment

Come Monday we’ll have a new team atop the national polls, all because the shorthanded occupant of the top spot could not maintain a 16-point second half lead.

No. 1 North Carolina scheduled their game at Northern Iowa as a homecoming of sorts for senior point guard Marcus Paige, who is currently sidelined with a broken bone on his right hand. But what would have been a tricky matchup even with Paige on the floor turned into a nightmare of sorts as the second half wore on, with the Panthers outscoring UNC 31-11 over the final 17:40 to win by the final score of 71-67.

UNI certainly deserves credit for their play both offensively and defensively in making the comeback, but they had some help in the form of a visiting team that lost focus. After doing a good job of finding quality looks on offense, including scoring on their first four possessions of the second half, the Tar Heels hit s dry spell. The ball didn’t move as crisply as it did earlier in the game and the player movement wasn’t as sound either.

So even with Justin Jackson scoring 25 points in his best performance of the season to date, these issues were bound to catch up with North Carolina playing against a team as sound defensively as UNI. The three perimeter players who played so well in their first three victories, Joel Berry II, Nate Britt and Theo Pinson, all struggled Saturday afternoon. The trio accounted for 11 points (4-for-16 FG), nine assists and eight turnovers on the day.

That’s something North Carolina can make up for when Paige is in the lineup. But in this period where their best ball-handler and scorer is on the bench, the play of the guards who normally would be in supplementary roles becomes even more important.

The bigger concern coming out of the second half was North Carolina’s play defensively. The Tar Heels had no answer for guards Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun, who combined to score 26 of their 40 in the game’s final 20 minutes. Some of the responsibility for that can be placed on the guards, but there were also poor defensive rotations on ball screens that led to Washpun (five second-half assists) getting opportunities to either score himself or find open teammates (Bohannon hit three three-pointers).

Of UNI’s final 31 points Washpun had a hand in 25 of them, scoring ten and assisting on 15. That speaks to both the senior’s impact on the game and North Carolina’s inability to slow him down.

Ultimately it’s only November 21, so Roy Williams and his team have plenty of time to work out the kinks on both ends of the floor. It was known that the loss of an All-American has a noticeable impact on how a team performs, so UNC going through an adjustment period is of no surprise. But if the team needed a reminder that their margin for error shrinks significantly without Marcus Paige on the court, they received it in his home state.

North Carolina’s Theo Pinson calls his shot before draining a deep shot in the Dean Dome (VIDEO)

Virginia Tech v North Carolina
Leave a comment

North Carolina is entering the 2015-16 season with a target on its back as one of the best teams in the country. The Tar Heels return nearly their entire roster from last season, minus J.P. Tokoto, and one of the players they need to make a jump is sophomore guard Theo Pinson.

Before Pinson has to worry about the pressures of ACC defenses and mounting pressure, he made a bold claim that he would make a trick shot in the Dean Dome that was caught on camera. If you’ve ever been sitting on the sidelines of a regulation floor and hurled a shot at the bucket, you know how difficult it can be.

North Carolina wing Theo Pinson undergoes successful foot surgery

(Getty Images)
Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
(Getty Images)

North Carolina freshman wing Theo Pinson has undergone successful foot surgery, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-6 Pinson had the surgery at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte after he suffered a fracture to his fifth metatarsal in North Carolina’s game against Wake Forest on Jan. 21. Pinson missed 10 games and 14 of the last 19 games.

During his freshman year, Pinson averaged 2.8 points and 3 rebounds per game.

The release says that Pinson will be ready to play for the 2015-16 season and that’s a great sign for the Tar Heels. While Pinson never quite found a rhythm during his freshman season, he’s skilled enough as a scorer and passer to be a difference maker if he makes a leap in his second year on campus. Pinson could help replace the production of junior forward J.P. Tokoto, who left for the 2015 NBA Draft.

North Carolina has found unlikely leadership from injured freshman

Florida State v North Carolina
Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
(Getty Images)

North Carolina has been without injured freshman guard Theo Pinson for five games as the former McDonald’s All-American recovers from a foot injury.

According to Powell Latimer of the News and Record, Pinson is getting out of a protective boot after three weeks and will be examined next week to see if he needs surgery on the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. But even with a broken foot, Pinson has continued to be outspoken and show vocal support on a team that desperately needs someone to step up and be a leader alongside junior guard Marcus Paige.

In Latimer’s profile of Pinson, we see that the freshman has stepped up as a supportive and respected teammate even though he’s stuck on the bench and unable to play.

“I just have to get it off my chest or it’s going to be lingering over my head,” Pinson said to Latimer. “Most of the time when I say things everybody is like ‘I’m glad you said that. We don’t have many people on our team that will speak up and say things.’ … Sometimes you just have to hear it.”

With Marcus Paige recently asking others on North Carolina to step up and lead, Pinson providing another voice in the locker room is a helpful thing for the Tar Heels. It would be even better if Pinson was given the opportunity to play healthy again this season, but North Carolina will have to wait and see until next week on the health status of the freshman.

Even though he’s sidelined by the injury, Latimer said in his story that Pinson continues to dance on one foot and keep up his energy during the game.

North Carolina guard will not play against Louisville; highly-unlikely he’ll be ready for Virginia

Belmont Abbey v North Carolina
Leave a comment

The first question asked during Roy Williams Friday afternoon press conference centered around the status of backup point guard Joel Berry II. While Berry had shown progress, Williams essentially ruled him out for North Carolina’s next two games.

The Tar Heels travel to face No. 10 Louisville on Saturday. After a quick turnaround, they host No. 2 Virginia, one of two remaining undefeated teams.

“He hasn’t done anything contact-wise yet,” Williams told reporters. “He will not play tomorrow and [I’m] 99.9 percent sure he won’t play Monday.”

Berry has been out since Jan. 14, aggravating a groin injury during practice. In that time, the Tar Heels perimeter has taken another hit when freshman wing Theo Pinson was sidelined indefinitely with a broken bone in his left foot.

The 6-foot Berry was averaging 3.2 points and 1.2 assists in 10.9 minutes per game.

Saturday marks the second meeting of the season between the Tar Heels and Cardinals. The first game ended with a Marcus Paige-led rally as North Carolina took down Louisville in the final seconds.

North Carolina freshman wing out indefinitely with broken bone in left foot

Virginia Tech v North Carolina
Leave a comment

Having already lost reserve point guard Joel Berry II to a groin injury, North Carolina will be down another freshman when they host Florida State Saturday afternoon.

Friday it was announced by the school that forward/guard Theo Pinson is out indefinitely after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Pinson suffered the injury in the first half of the Tar Heels’ win at Wake Forest Wednesday night.

Through 19 games Pinson is averaging 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game for North Carolina, which is ranked 15th nationally with a 15-4 overall record (5-1 ACC). The Tar Heels have won four straight games, and without Pinson it’s likely that starters J.P. Tokoto and Justin Jackson will combine to absorb the majority of the minutes that would have gone to Pinson.

After getting off to a slow start to ACC play Jackson, who like Pinson is a freshman, has played well for the Tar Heels in their last two games. In wins over Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, Jackson averaged 16.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. While neither the Hokies nor the Demon Deacons are contenders in the ACC, that two-game stretch could serve as a spark for Jackson as the Tar Heels approach a stretch (following Saturday’s game) in which they’ll play four of six games on the road.

Included in that portion of the schedule are games against No. 10 Louisville (January 31 on the road), No. 2 Virginia (February 2 at home) and No. 5 Duke (February 18 on the road).