Friday, March 11, 2011

UNC's Stewart faces familiar foe

GREENSBORO -- North Carolina junior Stewart Cooper was surprised when coach Roy Williams told him, and four other walk-ons, to check into the game mid-way through Friday's first half.

He was even more surprised to be guarding a familiar foe.

Cooper, who played at Forsyth Country Day in Winston-Salem, went up against Miami big man Reggie Johnson for an 87-second span.

“It was cool – I thought about saying something to him, but I didn’t think he’d remember me from high school,” Steward said. “But it was fun playing against him agai

Cooper, 6-feet-5 and 205 pounds, remembers playing against the now 6-10, 202-pound Johnson in high school, and “ he was a big body – which he still is. And he’s gotten stronger.”

Strong enough that Johnson finished with 12 points – and UNC out-scored Miami 17-7 when the big man was out of the game with four fouls. His absence helped the Tar Heels rally from 19 points to win.

Meanwhile, play of walk-ons Cooper, guard Patrick Crouch, forward Van Hatchell, guard Daniel Bolick, and forward D.J. Johnston – who were out-scored 2-0 – helped spark UNC as well, mostly because it allowed Williams to yell at the starters.

“It worked to the extent that it challenged our guys and told them that I wasn’t going to sit there,’’ Williams said. “I love those guys.”