North Carolina forward Deon Thompson blew by Javi Gonzalez, dunked over Scott Wood, then jogged down the court, grinning and bobbing his head at the hostile RBC Center crowd.
Ten game-minutes and a 77-63 win against N.C. State later, Thompson was still smiling in the locker room. And for good reason.
"This is one of the best feelings I've had in a while, just to have a good team win," said Thompson, who scored 20 points and pulled down six rebounds to halt UNC's three-game losing streak. "Because when you're losing in Chapel Hill, you just want to stay in the house and hide under a rock."
A big part of why the Tar Heels (13-7, 2-3 ACC) can come out from behind that rock today is Thompson, who recorded his best output since Nov. 29 by posting up more consistently, rebounding more aggressively, and leading by example.
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"He had a couple of games where he played so-and-so, but I think he came out and had a real nice game," N.C. State forward Tracy Smith said. "He took advantage of every opportunity he could, capitalized on every shot, ran the floor and rebounded. Offensively and defensively, I think he played a [heck] of a game."
In past games, Thompson said, he had shown a tendency to drift away from the basket, rather than hold his own in the lane, but Tuesday, "I just posted up hard, and when I make myself available, I make my teammates feel comfortable to throw the ball to me," he said.
And when he didn't demand the ball, Thompson took it for himself. With the score tied 14-14, he outworked two Wolfpack players to rebound teammate John Henson's missed free throw, and scored on a putback. On UNC's very next possession, he did it again, scoring a putback off teammate Dexter Strickland's missed free throw.
"When Deon decides to play, it's very, very hard to stop Deon - he's like a train, honestly," said point guard Larry Drew II, who tied his season-high with 18 points. "He can do whatever he wants to do out there on the court."
Thompson said he was helped by the return of forward Ed Davis, who was questionable with an ankle sprain, but added 12 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes. "Ed, he opens up so many things for me, because they don't have to just focus on me," Thompson said.
And after the game, he preferred not to focus on his performance, but on the performance of the team.
"A road win that we haven't got all year? ... This could definitely be a turning point," Thompson said. "We just have to build off of it and use it as momentum, and continue to work in practice, because we spotted people a lot of ground, and we have a lot of ground to make up."