Johnson Shows Toughness

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina coach Roy Williams has spent much of this season trying to drag more intensity and toughness out of Brice Johnson.

When Johnson plays the way he did Saturday, it's easy to see why the Hall of Fame coach won't stop pushing, either.

Johnson had 18 points and 14 rebounds to help the 15th-ranked Tar Heels survive a 35-point performance from Florida State freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes and beat the Seminoles 78-74.

The slender 6-foot-9 junior played through back tightness that had him standing at the end of the bench when he subbed out instead of sitting with teammates. He also aggravated his back on a hard fall in the first half, but finished through contact and rebounded in traffic on a day when the Tar Heels (16-4, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) needed help for an injury-depleted backcourt.

"It's a work in progress," Williams said of Johnson. "Brice is getting better. His toughness today was maybe one of the best games he's had because he's hurting. ... But he's nowhere close to what I think he can be."

Johnson earned his fourth double-double despite playing just 23 minutes due to first-half foul trouble. He has hit 15 of 20 shots in the past two games, though Williams was critical of Johnson's inconsistent effort after Wednesday's win at Wake Forest.

Not Saturday.

"It's really helping me, just hearing it over and over," Johnson said of Williams' demands. "Then once you get in a game you hear that little voice in the back of your mind, and it's usually Coach saying, 'Go up strong, go through the contact.'"

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