ACC

Brice Johnson’s 39/23 game for UNC was a rare feat

As North Carolina forward Brice Johnson’s scoring and rebounding totals steadily climbed Monday during a 106-90 victory at Florida State, the question of the night was clear: How often do college players have 39-point, 23-rebound nights?

The short and equally obvious answer: Not very often.

According to ESPN, only two Div. I players have had 35/23 nights in the past two decades: Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin and Texas’ Kevin Durant. Griffin edged out Johnson’s showing with 40 points and 23 rebounds against Texas Tech in 2009. Durant had 37 points and 23 rebounds a year earlier, also against Texas Tech.

To find the last ACC player to pull off that sort of line requires a deeper dive into the past.

(The only lingering question mark is whether anyone from South Carolina matched those numbers during the school’s ACC days. The Gamecocks’ record book only lists scoring performances of 44 points or better, and also cuts off its single-game rebounding leaders at 27).

That hole aside, only three ACC players besides Johnson have produced 39-point, 23-rebound days, and all of them claimed at least one conference player of the year award. Not bad company for the Carolina senior.

Here’s a quick rundown of the league’s 39/23 days:

▪ Wake Forest’s Len Chappell, Feb. 12, 1962: In the midst of averaging an ACC-record 30.1 points, Chappell dropped 50 points and 24 rebounds in a 116-67 rout of Virginia. He remains the only player in ACC history to score 50 points in a conference game.

▪ Duke’s Art Heyman, Feb. 23, 1963: In his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Heyman (the ACC’s player of the year in 1963) had 40 points and 24 rebounds in a 106-93 defeat of North Carolina. The victory capped the Blue Devils’ 14-0 run through the league; they’d claim the ACC tournament a week later and go on to reach the Final Four.

▪ North Carolina’s Billy Cunningham, Jan. 13, 1964: In one of the highlights of a 12-12 season, Cunningham had 40 points and 28 rebounds as the Tar Heels earned a 97-88 home victory over Maryland.

▪ North Carolina’s Billy Cunningham, Dec. 10, 1964: Three days after a victory over Kentucky – North Carolina’s first over a ranked team under Dean Smith – Cunningham had 48 points and 25 rebounds in a 111-74 rout of Tulane.

▪ North Carolina’s Brice Johnson, Jan. 4, 2016: The only game of the bunch to come on the road, Johnson shot 14 of 16 from the floor and 11 of 16 at the free throw line at Florida State. His previous career-highs were 27 points (last month against UCLA) and 17 rebounds (last season against East Carolina).

Trivia

Prior to Johnson’s performance on Monday, who was the last ACC player to collect 23 rebounds in a game?

Boeheim nears return

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will return from his NCAA-mandated nine-game suspension Saturday when the Orange (10-5, 0-2 ACC entering Tuesday’s home game against Clemson) hosts North Carolina at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse is 4-4 under assistant Mike Hopkins, with losses to Georgetown, St. John’s, Pittsburgh and Miami – all on the road.

Boeheim could very well provide a boost for the Orange. He is a member of basketball’s hall of fame and depending on how seriously one takes the concept of vacated wins owns 864 or 972 victories for his career.

But will it be enough to send Syracuse into serious NCAA tournament contention? The Orange struggles to maintain even a seven-man rotation (and Hopkins has shown a little more willingness to stretch his bench), is heavily dependent upon 3-pointers and has an especially glaring defensive deficiency at the center spot.

Syracuse has the potential to knock off nearly anyone thanks to a lineup that often features four capable outside shooters. But its results suggest it could lose to some nondescript ACC teams as well.

Answer

Prior to Brice Johnson’s monster game at Florida State on Monday, the last ACC player to collect 23 rebounds in a game was N.C. State’s J.J. Hickson, who had 23 rebounds (and 13 points) in a 71-64 loss to Clemson on Feb. 16, 2008.

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