CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After not having played in a live contest since last April’s national championship game, Theo Pinson finally made his season debut on Sunday in No. 14 North Carolina’s 107-56 thrashing of N.C. State.
The junior wing missed the Tar Heels’ first 16 games of the season after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during preseason practice.
Pinson finished the game without any points, but did just about everything else he could to assist his team in the blowout victory. The 6-foot-6 wing recorded five rebounds, five assists, and four steals in just 13 minutes of action.
Pinson’s performance is why head coach Roy Williams refers to him as UNC’s stat-sheet stuffer.
“He does so many things and affects so many things on the court,” Williams said on his radio show on Monday. “He’s always had a really high motor. I thought he’d be alright because he does affect the game in so many different ways.”
Williams said Pinson only had three or four full court practices before he made his official return against the Wolfpack. With that little time back, Williams made sure to temper the energetic junior’s expectations.
“I kept trying to tell him a couple of days before the game, ‘You do not have to hit a homerun every time. Just play the game. Just be Theo, you don’t have to be anything different,’” Williams said. “Other than the 0-3 from the floor, I think he did some really good things for us.”
What are your initial thoughts on the two big wins this week against Clemson and N.C. State?
“We laid a bad, bad, bad, bad egg the way we played at Georgia Tech and we needed to bounce back and Clemson is a very good basketball team. Beating them at Clemson is never easy and it was a good win for us. [On Sunday] things just rolled right for us and not very good for the other guys.”
That game was originally scheduled for Saturday night at 8 p.m. and it was eventually postponed. You ended up playing Sunday at 1 p.m. instead. What was your reaction to how that all played out?
“I think it was the right decision… It was unsafe. I was happy that my son and my daughter decided both not to come. my high school coach wasn’t going to come and he comes every time. The difference for us was that it was at eight o’clock at night and would have been over at 10 o’clock. Duke played at two in the afternoon, at least it was daylight hours. So that was a huge, huge part of it for us…. I think when it was over with that they thought it really was the right thing to do and they didn’t have many problems with getting people out of there and getting them back. You know, we don’t have great parking here. So many people have to get on a bus or stand in a line to get on a bus, so I think it’s a lot better to do that in the daylight hours.”
Considering the circumstances, it really was a great crowd environment in the Smith Center.
“It really was… It was a great crowd and they were into it. It wasn’t perfect, still, everywhere you live it’s still bad. The Smith Center and the university people, they did a great job of getting the sidewalks clear where you could walk without falling down…. The main roads were in great shape. The crowd really was sensational.”
It seemed like Carolina’s defense was the driving force in the win over N.C. State. NCSU had 26 turnovers, 17 of which were off of your team’s steals.
“It was big. We wanted to be able to do it defensively right from the opening tip. We talked about it and pressured it and talked about it in pregame. We were in the arena on Saturday. We were getting ready to start our shoot around when we got word that the game had been moved. So we went through the scouting reports and said that’s the way we want to start the game. The other thing is we really wanted to push the ball and let the pace be at our speed and our speed was going to be faster than theirs.
“We had to try and get the ball inside; if you get the ball inside on the break some then also the outside shots are more open. We also got a big break… Dennis Smith is a tremendous, tremendous player and the game he played against Virginia Tech on Wednesday night is as good as I’ve seen a guard play in a long, long time. So he got the two quick fouls then he came back in and got the third foul and that was huge for us, too.”
The NCSU game may have been the best performance of Seventh Woods’s career. He played 15 minutes, had six points, three rebounds, a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and seemed like he had a confident few minutes.
“I think Seventh did have some good moments. He still shows those flashes of that tremendous speed and acceleration and he did that a couple of times during the game. He and Joel Berry had a turnovers taking the ball down underneath and that just drives me crazy. So we’ve got to get rid of those.”
In the road game against Clemson, it seemed like a timely win against what is a very good Clemson squad.
“And very needed, because we were as low as you can possibly be with the way we felt like we played at Georgia Tech, and you have to give them credit because they made plays down the stretch and we didn’t. So we needed that win and it was something that was important to us. Joel Berry was sensational for about a 10-minute stretch, making every shot he looked at. After that, a lot of guys got involved… Kenny Williams made some plays, Justin Jackson made some big plays, Kennedy (Meeks) made a big basket in the overtime. It was definitely needed.”
Joel Berry had 31 points against Clemson and at one point had 19 of Carolina’s 23 points in a stretch in the second half. When you have someone that is that hot, do you just kind of leave them alone when he’s out there?
“Yeah, just keep shooting. He got 31, he got 29 of those points in the first 34 minutes of the game and only scored one field goal in the last 11 minutes of the game. At that point he was the one that kept us in the game, then he gave us the lead.”