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One way for UNC to get back on track? Get Theo Pinson back on track

North Carolina’s Theo Pinson (1) loses his footing, and the ball late in the second half against Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va. Pinson finished the game with four points in the Tar Heels 61-49 loss to Virginia.
North Carolina’s Theo Pinson (1) loses his footing, and the ball late in the second half against Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va. Pinson finished the game with four points in the Tar Heels 61-49 loss to Virginia. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Theo Pinson doesn’t really have a position for North Carolina.

The 6-6 senior plays everywhere, even as a nominal center for long stretches in the second half of Saturday’s loss to Virginia.

He’s a guard, he’s a forward, he’s a wing, and he’s the Tar Heels’ best playmaker (he leads the team in assists) as coach Roy Williams often points out.

The Tar Heels don’t need to put a label on what Pinson does, they just need more of it.

Pinson has struggled the past three games to find his role in UNC’s offense, as the Heels have struggled to a 1-2 start in ACC play.

He scored a total of nine points in ACC road losses to Florida State and Virginia last week. So far in conference play, he’s averaging 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

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North Carolina’s Theo Pinson (1) glides to the basket for dunk in the second half against Florida State on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at the Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Fla. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

As a complementary player the previous two seasons, those numbers would be fine for Pinson, but on this team, the Tar Heels need more out of the senior.

“Theo is a playmaker for us, so we need him to get going there again,” UNC coach Roy Williams said on the weekly ACC teleconference on Monday.

“We need him to get going on the backboards, we need him to get going defensively. He has struggled the last couple of games, but he’s not the only one.”

No, Pinson has had company, especially in the 61-49 debacle at Virginia on Saturday. The Tar Heels turned the ball over too much (19 times) and didn’t make enough shots (16 of 54).

We need him to get going on the backboards, we need him to get going defensively. He has struggled the last couple of games but he’s not the only one.

UNC coach Roy Williams

Pinson was a combined 2 of 9 in the losses to FSU and UVa. He doesn’t have to be a volume scorer or shooter for the Tar Heels – although he did score 19 in wins over Ohio State and Bucknell and was the lone bright spot with 16 in the loss to Michigan State – but he has to be more involved in the offense.

More rebounds would help on that front. Pinson had three against FSU and only two at Virginia. He had seven, including two on the offensive glass and a spectacular putback, in the ACC opener against Wake Forest on Dec. 30.

He has had some big assist games, too, with eight in a road win over Tennessee (the best win of the season) on Dec. 17, and he leads the team with an average of 4.3 per game.

“The kids trust him, and he does make some big-time plays for us,” Williams said.

Pinson has been critical of his recent play and has said he needs to contribute more. Pinson said after the UVa loss the most important thing for both him, and the team, is to learn from the recent setbacks.

“If we take it and get down on ourselves, and beat ourselves up, we won’t get better from this,” Pinson said. “As seniors, me and Joel (Berry) have to let the team know, it’s a long season and we have a lot of ACC games left.”

Joel Berry leads Tar Heel with 17 points. Tar Heels commit 19 turnovers against the Cavaliers on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

Boston College at No. 20 UNC

When: 8 p.m., Tuesday

Where: Smith Center, Chapel Hill

TV/radio: WRAL, 106.1-WTKK

Boston College (11-5, 2-2 ACC)

G Ky Bowman 15.7 ppg, 5.0 apg

G Jerome Robinson 18.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg

G Jordan Chatman 13.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg

F Steffon Mitchell 6.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg

F Nik Popovic 9.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg

UNC (12-4, 1-2 ACC)

G Joel Berry 17.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg

G Kenny Williams 12.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg

G Theo Pinson 8.7 ppg, 4.3 apg

F Luke Maye 17.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg

F Garrison Brooks 5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg

Storyline: Both Ky Bowman (Havelock) and Jerome Robinson (Garner) grew up UNC fans. The Boston College guards took great delight in knocking off Duke earlier in December. They have been a difficult combination for any team to handle. Junior guard Kenny Williams is UNC’s top perimeter defender. It will be interesting to see how Roy Williams tries to match up with Bowman and Robinson.

Joe Giglio

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