Johnson leads No. 12 UNC past East Carolina 108-64
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson was so good on Sunday that he earned his usual name.
Johnson had 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to lead No. 12 North Carolina to a 108-64 victory over East Carolina.
''That was Jonathan playing the first seven games of the year,'' Johnson said, making a reference to his first name. ''It was finally Brice tonight. That's the Brice that everybody knows. That's the Brice that everybody needs to play every night.''
J.P. Tokoto also scored 19 points for the Tar Heels (6-2), who shot a season-best 60 percent from the floor. Kennedy Meeks added 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Nate Britt finished with 10 points.
Terry Whisnant scored 15 points for East Carolina (4-5), which shot 33 percent from the field. B.J. Tyson had 13 points, and Caleb White scored 11.
Johnson bounced back after scoring two points on 1-of-7 shooting in Wednesday's 60-55 loss to Iowa.
Against the Pirates, Johnson was a different player. He was active on the boards throughout and stayed engaged on defense even after missing three of his first four shot attempts.
Johnson finished the first half with a flurry, scoring eight of North Carolina's final 10 points. His final three baskets of the half all came after his own offensive rebounds.
''His rebounding today was really impressive,'' North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. ''He was rebounding the ball in a crowd and didn't act like a little wimp.''
East Carolina led 10-9 before Isaiah Hicks scored seven points on three consecutive possessions for the Tar Heels.
Hicks dunked twice off passes from Tokoto and then converted a three-point play to give North Carolina a 16-10 lead.
The Pirates closed to 19-16 with 10:54 left, but never got any closer.
''Just their size and athleticism inside took its toll on us,'' East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said. ''Their class inside was off the chain.''
North Carolina led 48-29 at halftime on the strength of a 23-5 run beginning midway through the first half.
East Carolina missed each of its 11 3-point attempts in the opening half. It was 4 for 25 from long range for the game.
East Carolina: The Pirates missed their first 12 3-point attempts before Whisnant connected from the right wing with 17:24 left.
North Carolina: Williams pulled all five of his starters 1:56 into the second half after the Tar Heels committed three quick turnovers.
East Carolina hosts James Madison on Saturday.
North Carolina visits No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday.
Lebo played at North Carolina from 1985-89, scoring 1,567 points. He dropped to 0-3 as a head coach against his alma mater, but he received a loud ovation during pregame introductions. Lebo's Tennessee Tech team lost at North Carolina 85-59 in 1999, and his East Carolina team lost to the Tar Heels 93-87 in 2012.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
''I challenged him. There's no question about that. . I got ticked off at him the last three days, and he was really good today. But I'm getting to be old. I can't stay mad all the dadgum time. He's got to be able to do that himself.'' - Williams on motivating Johnson
Johnson had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the first half. He became the first UNC player to register a double-double in a half since John Henson had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the first half against Elon in 2011. . North Carolina's reserves scored 44 points on 17-of-23 shooting. . East Carolina had just two offensive rebounds at halftime.