It wasn't the perfect performance UNC had in the February 21st win over Georgia Tech, but it was more than enough as the Tar Heels took advantage of multiple Yellow Jacket miscues to take a 81-49 win in Atlanta.
Obviously there was a trap game element to this game and UNC dispelled any notion of that, especially on the defensive end. Georgia Tech was plagued by repeated miscues throughout the first half. Compounding the issue was leading scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt going out three minutes into the game with an ankle injury. That left an already suspect Yellow Jacket offense discombobulated for the balance of the half. UNC ended the half with a 21 points off 11 Georgia Tech turnovers.
UNC also got a huge boost from Joel Berry off the bench. Berry went 3-3 from three and posted a career high 11 points after only one half. Offensively speaking, UNC relied heavily on the perimeter players for offense. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Joel James were a combined 4-13 for just eight points in the first half against Georgia Tech's frontline. Britt also chipped in a three, Justin Jackson scored seven and J.P. Tokoto had six to put the Heels up by 18 at the break. Paige had five of UNC's seven steals in holding Georgia Tech to an offensive efficiency of 59.7.
The second half was a test of how well UNC could focus given the lead and the fact Georgia Tech wasn't going to be able to generate enough offense to close the gap. For the most part UNC played well enough though the offense was more disjointed and sloppy through the middle portion of the half. Georgia Tech, without Georges-Hunt simply didn't have enough firepower to mount a rally despite having some success getting the ball on the interior.
UNC finished the game out strong with a 22-9 run. Overall it was a balanced attack with Joel Berry raising his career high to 15 points. Justin Jackson was UNC's only other double digit scorer with 13 points. Britt had 9 points, Tokoto, Meeks and Hicks had 8 apiece. Paige had just seven points but dished out four assists and had six steals.
UNC's blowout win allowed 15 Tar Heel players to see action including Theo Pinson who entered the game in the final two minutes for his first appearance since January 21st versus Wake Forest. The freshman wing scored a quick five points including hitting a three. Also returning to action were guards Stilman White and Luke Davis who had both been injured most of the season. Walk-on Justin Coleman got into the game as did Spenser Dalton who was recently promoted from the JV team.
It is unclear how many conclusions can be drawn from this game. Joel Berry has played well in the past two games and is the first guard off the bench ahead of Nate Britt. If his outside shot and overall play is finally clicking it could be a huge boost to an offense that sorely needs perimeter scoring. Likewise, Pinson's return could be a catalyst providing he can give Roy Williams meaningful minutes.
With the win UNC clinches at least the #5 seed in the ACC Tournament.
In two games versus Georgia Tech this season, UNC has outscored the Yellow Jackets 170-109.