CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Joel Berry has emerged as Mr. Reliable during a stretch of games in which No. 2 North Carolina has struggled to find consistency despite its winning ways.
On Saturday, Berry finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, six assists (his most in ACC play) and three rebounds without a turnover in UNC’s 89-62 win over Boston College.
“He’s really just played good basketball,” Roy Williams said after the game. “He’s really stepped up and done some good things for us on both ends.”
Saturday’s win marked the fifth time in eight ACC games that Berry played without committing a turnover. Williams has attributed the lower turnover rate of his team to having fewer high-risk, high-reward players, and Berry is no different.
“Instead of just trying to always make that home run play, just try to make the simple play and value the ball,” Berry said.
Williams tabbed his sophomore point guard as the most consistent player on his team this season. Berry has scored in double figures in each of the last 12 games, something no other player on the team has done.
“It’s just staying within myself and doing what I know I can do,” Berry said. “Just staying within myself and playing my game, I think that’s the biggest part.”
Berry’s production hasn’t just taken place on the offensive end of the court. He collected three steals for the third time in UNC’s last five games, and leads the team with 34 on the season.
“We’re a running team, and we don’t want the tempo to be slow,” Berry said. “We want to get up and down and get as many shots as we can, so those turnovers that we have, that’s what we want each and every game.”
The steals don’t tell the entire story about Berry’s defensive play. In the past three games, the sophomore been assigned with scorers like N.C. State’s Cat Barber and Boston College’s Eli Carter. While Carter finished with 19 points, he committed seven turnovers and struggled to find breathing room until late in the second half.
“I just try to come in and try to stop them,” Berry said, “because once you stop them, that stops their offense, and that’s what I tried to do today.”
Berry is averaging 14.0 points per game in ACC play, second only to Brice Johnson’s 17.8, and is shooting team-best percentages from 3-point range (38.9) and the free throw line (84.6).