Pinson primed to provide backcourt boost for Heels at Wake Forest

January 11, 2017 GMT

This is like coming full circle for North Carolina junior Theo Pinson.

When the No. 11 Tar Heels play Wednesday night at Wake Forest (8 p.m., ESPN2), it will be almost two full years since he suffered a broken foot at Lawrence Joel Coliseum and missed the next 10 days.

Now, he’s freshly back from another broken foot and ready to make an impact for the rest of the season.

“He just gives us more versatility out there,” Tar Heels swingman Justin Jackson said.

Pinson’s backcourt presence is something the Tar Heels have been anxious to have available. He played for the first time Sunday against North Carolina State, logging 13 minutes in the 107-56 rout.

“I wanted to affect the game in some way and I think I did,” he said. ”(I want) to get back in rhythm.”

He was scoreless in his first game of the season, but he snatched five rebounds, supplied five assists and made four steals. He took three shots from the field and missed his lone free throw.


“When he gets involved and he’s playing, people feed off of that,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “He does understand the game. ... Theo is going to talk so he does need to do the right thing when he’s on the court, too.”

Pinson received a huge ovation when he entered Sunday’s home game. With the Wake Forest game in Winston-Salem, it will be his closest outing of the season to his hometown of Greensboro.

Pinson was injured during the preseason in October, and has been rehabbing the injury.

“I wanted to get him some minutes. I had no idea how he would play,” Williams said. “Probably what he did is about what I expected. “He is a person who brings a high motor out there. I just think he needs a couple of weeks here when he gets everything rolling.”

Pinson was a likely starter for the Tar Heels (14-3, 2-1 ACC) if not for the preseason injury, so he could move to that role.

Wake Forest, despite coming off Sunday night’s loss at Virginia, is one victory away from matching last season’s win total.

Forward John Collins has provided the biggest production for Wake Forest (10-6, 1-3) this season, but with North Carolina the opponent he’ll be surrounded in the lane by the nation’s top rebounding team. Collins has had difficulty at times because of foul trouble.

“It’s about understanding it,” Collins said of his efforts to stay on the court.

Wake Forest was tied with Virginia until a late-game burst from the Cavaliers. That was the latest rough span late in a game for the Demon Deacons.

“It has been a pattern around here for us at Wake Forest,” guard Keyshawn Woods said of the failure to turn in strong finishes.

The Demon Deacons are content with keeping games tight.

“We’ve got to be able to close out the game in those situations, and a lot of it is going to come down to defensively being able to stay in front of the basketball,” coach Danny Manning said.

This will be North Carolina’s third ACC road game. The Tar Heels own a 158-66 all-time record against Wake Forest for the most victories against any foe.