Mired in the depths of a three-game losing streak, the North Carolina basketball team could use all the good news it can get right now.
And there’s finally some on the horizon.
Not only will the Tar Heels have a chance to get healthy at home against the worst team in the ACC, Pittsburgh, but they’ll get guard Theo Pinson back after missing all but the first two minutes of Tuesday’s loss at Clemson with a shoulder injury.
“I think he’s probably 70-75 percent,” coach Roy Williams said of his senior leader. “I have him listed as going full in practice (Friday). I would think he’ll be a little better at practice than he was (Thursday).”
Pinson is averaging 9.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and a team-leading 4.2 assists per game, but sat out most of Tuesday’s loss after crashing to the floor after grabbing a rebound. He posted career-high 22 points and 15 rebounds the previous game, last Saturday’s overtime loss to NC State.
Williams said that Pinson could probably have returned Tuesday had it been later in the season, but he was held out of action as a precaution.
“It’s good. It’s been improving every day,” Pinson said of his shoulder on Friday. “Today is the best it’s felt, so we’re moving in the right direction.”
Not only will Pinson be back in the lineup, there’s also a possibility that another member of the teams walking wounded, sophomore Seventh Woods, could return as well.
“Seventh went halfcourt on Monday, we played Tuesday and we had Wednesday off, so (Thursday) was the first time he’s gone fullcourt (in practice),” Williams said, adding that his participation against Pitt will “depends on how he feels, how I feel and how he plays.”
Woods has missed the past 16 games with a stress fracture in his left foot. He has not played since a win against Michigan on Nov. 29.
The 6-foot-1 point guard is averaging 2.4 points and 1.3 assists in 10.9 minutes per game as a backup to starter Joel Berry. The importance of his possible return is amplified by the recent suspension of freshman Jalek Felton, who has been serving as the Tar Heels’ top reserve point guard in Woods’ absence.
Williams said that he’s make a decision on Woods’ availability after pregame warmup against the Panthers, who have lost 10 straight and are 8-15 overall.
“Whether or not we will give him any time (Saturday) night, I don’t think we will make that decision until even during the game,” the UNC coach said. “I’ve got to get the 100 percent go from him before he can go. The trainers have already talked to me and given me their input. It’s a basketball decision now.”