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Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels Getting Back Key Player for Tomorrow Night

Bob Donnan- USA Today Sports

Saturday night’s game for the Tar Heels in Durham will be an important one. Not only will the team be looking to hand new Duke head coach Jon Scheyer a loss in his first game in the rivalry, but they are also in desperate need of a bounce back after Wednesday night. 

The loss to Pittsburgh in the Smith Center dropped the Tar Heels to 15-7 (7-4) on the season and has put this team back in a position of uncertainty. This is a start of a key stretch for the team where they will face four teams inside of the top of the 40 in the NET rankings in their next seven games. It feels like the team will have to find a way to win at least two of those games to feel comfortable about their tournament hopes. 

On Friday afternoon, Hubert Davis announced in his press conference that the team will have an important piece available for that crucial stretch starting on Saturday. During his meeting with the media, Davis said that junior forward Puff Johnson, who has missed each of the last three games with a knee injury will be available for tomorrow night’s game. So far in 2022-23, Johnson has averaged 4.1 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game and is shooting 43.8% from the field overall and 36.8% from behind the arc. He has been the team’s primary player off the bench this season, leading all bench players in minutes played per game, points per game and rebounds per game.

While Johnson will be available on Saturday, it’s hard to tell how much he will actually be able to play against the rival Duke Blue Devils. If he is able to play a significant role, that would be huge for this bench that is thin outside of him, but just having him headed in the right direction is huge. The most important thing is that Johnson can be healthy for as many games as possible for this gauntlet to close out ACC play.


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