The Tar Heels (17-2, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had little trouble extending their best start to conference play since 2000-01. They never trailed and overcame one of their worst shooting performances of the season (38.4 percent) by forcing Wake Forest into 19 turnovers and turning them into 21 points.
North Carolina — which appears in line to return to No. 1 after Oklahoma's loss earlier this week — reeled off 12 straight points late in the first half to build a comfortable lead, then went up by 27 after halftime.
Bryant Crawford scored 18 points and Devin Thomas had 17 for the Demon Deacons (10-8, 1-5), who fell to 5-21 in the Dean Smith Center. They lost their third straight overall and have dropped five of six in January.
Johnson, the team's lone double-figure scorer, was 8 of 12 in matching the second-highest-scoring game of his career, surpassed only by the 39 points he put up against Florida State on Jan. 4. He also matched a career high by making 11 free throws.
For the Tar Heels, perhaps the only concern in this one was that, once again, very little fell for Marcus Paige. The star guard missed his first seven shots before he flipped one in from the lane with about 5 1/2 minutes left. He matched a career low with two points and is a combined 3 for 25 since his 30-point game at Florida State.
They sure didn't need much from him to earn another win over Wake Forest.
The Tar Heels broke this one open with that big run late in the first half, a burst started by Johnson's back-to-back buckets — including a pretty turnaround hook shot from the baseline. Luke Maye had two tip-ins during the run, including one that made it 42-23 with just under 3 minutes left before the break.
Television viewers missed about 45 minutes of the ESPN2 broadcast due to what ESPN called technical difficulties. North Carolina officials said the signal was leaving the arena fine, but was having trouble somewhere between Chapel Hill and Bristol. The feed finally started to work during the final moments of the first half.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels were without 6-foot-10 forward Joel James, who has an injured Achilles tendon. James made seven of his eight starts while Kennedy Meeks was injured but averages only 10.6 minutes and 2.9 points.
North Carolina plays at Virginia Tech on Sunday.