LOS ANGELES (AP) — Brice Johnson used some bad language and it turned into him playing some great basketball.
The senior forward finished with 27 points, the second straight game he set his career high, and No. 11 North Carolina pulled away in the second half for an 89-76 victory over No. 22 UCLA on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic at Barclays Center.
Johnson used some profanity on the bench and Tar Heels coach Roy Williams let him know it wasn’t appreciated by benching him as UCLA took an 11-point lead in the first half.
“I kind of used some bad language and coach was really (upset) at me about it. So he sat me for it,” Johnson said. “It put a fire into my butt and when I got back in there I was ready to go.”
Was he ever.
Johnson missed his first shot from the field then didn’t miss again, finishing 11 of 12 and grabbing nine rebounds.
” It’s just, I got to learn from that. Even my dad tells me the same thing, I got to change my language sometimes,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it gets the best of me. I just got to make better decisions when I’m coming off the court and not yell a profanity and saying things like that because I probably could have been in the game a little longer and got a couple of more points.”
Williams didn’t reveal the magic words that got Johnson in hot water.
“No, didn’t care,” Williams said. “I just didn’t like what he said.”
UCLA couldn’t have liked what Johnson did after that.
“He’s a pretty good threat, 11 for 12 and nine rebounds,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “It’s as good a team as we’ve played and I think Johnson’s playing at a really high level right now. We thought a key was going to be which bigs got in foul trouble and our bigs got in trouble. That’s going to affect us and I thought it eventually caught up to us because the difference was points off turnovers and points in the paint and obviously Johnson has a lot to do with that.”
UCLA’s inside players — Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh — were in foul trouble throughout the game.
North Carolina broke the game open with a 13-0 run that gave them a 73-57 lead with 6:24 to play. Johnson had four points in the run and when UCLA (8-4) broke its 4:28 scoring drought, Johnson answered immediately to restore the 16-point lead.
Joel Berry II had a career-high 17 points for the Tar Heels, who finished 4 for 19 from 3-point range. They entered the game shooting 36.8 percent from beyond the arc. Marcus Paige had 10 points and six assists for North Carolina, which has won six of seven.
“I like the way that we did get some turnovers out of our scramble stuff because we haven’t done that very much this year,” Williams said. “I liked the way we kept being aggressive offensively (and) attacking.”
Isaac Hamilton had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting for the Bruins, who beat two ranked teams — then-No. 1 Kentucky and then-No. 20 Gonzaga — in the last nine days. Hamilton made 4 of 5 attempts from 3-point range as the Bruins finished 8 of 17 from beyond the arc. They committed 17 turnovers, many unforced. Parker had 13 points and 11 rebounds for UCLA, which had won five straight since returning from the Maui Invitational.
North Carolina didn’t start to cut into the 11-point deficit until the Tar Heels stopped firing from beyond the 3-point arc. Once the ball started going inside they were able to go on a run and it was Johnson who keyed it, scoring all 13 of his first-half points in the final 7 minutes.
UCLA’s problem wasn’t shooting, it was taking care of the ball. The Bruins finished the half with 11 turnovers, one off what they average for a game.
UCLA: The Bruins were beaten 83-44 by then-No. 1 Kentucky in the inaugural CBS Sports Classic, played in Chicago last season. … The Bruins hit their first five 3-point attempts — four by Hamilton — and finished the half 6 of 10. … This was UCLA’s first week in the Top 25.
North Carolina: Junior forward Kennedy Meeks missed his second game with a bruised left knee. He is expected to miss several weeks, according to the school. … Paige has 1,495 points as he tries to become the 29th player in North Carolina history to score 1,500 points. … North Carolina beat Ohio State 82-74 in last year’s CBS Sports Classic. … North Carolina hit its first shot of the game — a 3 by Paige — then missed the next seven. It was worse from long range. Paige’s 3 was the only one the Tar Heels made in the first half in 11 attempts. … Former North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, was in the crowd.
UCLA hosts McNeese State on Tuesday.
North Carolina hosts Appalachian State on Monday.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)