ACC Basketball

Tar Heels, Wolfpack Both Roll to Victory

AP Photo/David Tulis

NORTH CAROLINA CRUSHES GEORGIA TECH

If only the Tar Heel could play the Yellow Jackets every time out. Just two weeks after North Carolina owned Georgia Tech by 29, they crushed them in Atlanta, 81-49…meaning in two games they’ve outscored the Jackets by 61 points.

The abuse started early when North Carolina forced turnovers on six straight possessions, building a double-digit lead quickly. With no outside shooting and Marcus Georges-Hunt turning an ankle three minutes in, the Jackets had no firepower to match the high flying Tar Heels. While UNC was putting in points in a variety of ways (inside, outside, in transition), Tech scored nearly all of their points in the paint, hitting just 1-16 from three.

Ten different Tar Heels scored points and some of the best scoring came from rare sources, as Marcus Paige scored just 7 and Brice Johnson had his worst offensive game, hitting 1-for-9, scoring two points. Instead, North Carolina relied on Joel Berry, who had his best game of the year, hitting three 3’s, scoring 15. Justin Jackson added 13, hitting all six inside the paint. Even Natt Britt got into the act with nine points and a pair of assists.

However, the key was defense. Because Georgia Tech is so weak at the guard position, Roy Williams had his boys pressing at the wing, above the three-line and thanks to the length of just about every player, UNC was able to continually able to disrupt passing lanes or get steals leading to easy dunks on the other end.

Georgia Tech did manage to hit 43% from inside the arc and got to the free throw line 19 times. Inside, Charles Mitchell and Demarco Cox combined for 30 points, but this team’s inability to hit a deep ball and tonight’s inability to not pass it to a player wearing blue (18 turnovers) cost them dearly.

The Yellow Jackets’ regular season is over. They finished the year 12-18, 3-15 in the ACC and now have a week to prepare for the ACC Tournament, where they have already locked up the 12-seed. North Carolina improves to 21-9, 11-6 in the ACC and remain one game back in the loss column for that 4th spot in the tournament. Next up is Duke, while the Cardinals still have to face both Notre Dame and Virginia.

NC STATE HOLDS ON TO BEAT CLEMSON

In their first meeting, the Wolfpack struggled to handle the Tigers pressure defense and for a half Tuesday night, it looked like we were seeing a repeat performance. NC State hit just six of their first 24 shots and trailed Clemson, 21-20. In the second half, Mark Gottfried’s group decided to switch rolls and their lock down defense held the Tigers 14 minutes with a basket. Wait, 14 minutes? Wow.

The Wolfpack were able to go on a 25-5 run to blow open the game. NC State led by 16, holding the Tigers to just 33 points in the games first 36:34 minutes. However, a surprisingly late rally by the Tigers made things interesting. Clemson would score 28 points in the game’s final 3:26, yet the closest they got was five at the buzzer, as State hit 15 of 19 free throws to seal the 66-61 victory.

The Tigers have now dropped five of seven and are 16-13 on the year, 8-9 in the ACC. They still have a shot to get to .500 in conference, but that will be tough as they head to South Bend to face the Irish this weekend.

NC State has won four of five, losing only to Boston College this past Saturday. They improve to 18-12 on the year, now tied with Syracuse for sixth place in the ACC with a 9-8 record. Next up, is their fellow sixth place team, as the Orange head to town.

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