CHAPEL HILL — No. 7 North Carolina defeated Georgia Tech 93-81 here at the Smith Center on Sunday night. A look back and the highlights and lowlights:
Why the Tar Heels won: North Carolina dominated the first half so much that Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said he was “pleased about everything” his team did during the first 20 minutes. The Heels excelled offensively, making 8 of their 12 3-pointers, and they dominated on the defensive end, too. UNC led 52-32 at halftime, and the game was basically over by then. Williams criticized UNC’s focus in the second half, when Georgia Tech outscored the Heels 49-41. But UNC’s second-half sluggishness didn’t much matter to the final result, which had already been long decided.
The good: The Heels shot a season-high 62.5 percent from 3-point range. UNC made 10 3’s overall – just one short of a season-high of 11, which the Heels made against Kentucky and Tennessee State. A coach would welcome a good shooting night like tonight any time, but it had be especially welcome to Williams given UNC’s recent shooting woes. The Heels had been shooting 24.6 percent from 3-point range in ACC play before Sunday night. Also good: Harrison Barnes, especially in the second half. He finished with a game-high 23 points and made all three of his 3’s. Tyler Zeller had another solid game, with 17 points – but only three rebounds – and John Henson finished with 13 points and three assists.
The bad: UNC’s focus and intensity waned in the second half, which perhaps wasn’t too surprising given how dominant the Heels were in the first half. Georgia Tech is one of the worst offensive teams in the ACC but you wouldn’t have known it based on how the Yellow Jackets played in the second half. Georgia Tech’s 49 second-half points were tied for the second-most it has scored in any half this season. The Jackets, one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the conference, also made 7 of their 10 3’s in the second half against UNC. Williams gave credit to the Jackets for playing well, but he was frustrated with UNC’s second half performance, too.
Key stat: The Tar Heels made 10 of their 16 3-pointers – a welcome sight for a team that had been struggling with its perimeter shooting.
Key stat II: UNC forced Georgia Tech into 15 turnovers. It wasn’t an overwhelming number, but the Heels took advantage of the Jackets’ miscues and turned those turnovers into 18 points. UNC outscored Georgia Tech 18-4 in points off of turnovers.
UNC player of the game: Barnes. He finished with 23 points and played one of his better halves in the second half on Sunday night. Coincidentally – or perhaps not coincidentally – Barnes switched shoes at halftime. He traded a pair of pink shoes, which UNC wore as part of a cause to raise awareness for breast cancer, for the regular shoes that he wears. He said he felt much more comfortable in his normal shoes.
Quotable: “We’re good shooters. I mean, we really are. We make a bunch of them in practice all the time. So I’ve said the whole time that I thought that, I believe that – when we started making them it would make things even a lot prettier. And again I believe I said when we started making them. I don’t think I said if.” –UNC coach Roy Williams on his team’s perimeter shooting.