In a game that North Carolina was bested in field goal percentage by Georgia Tech (42% to GT’s 48%), the Heels were able to dig deep and find a toughness that helped them overcome a very off night by Joel Berry II. UNC closed the first half with a big run that they continued into the second half, and managed to keep the Yellow Jackets from mounting too much of a comeback.
Sterling Manley and Theo Pinson led the way for Carolina in the first half, each scoring nine points before heading to the locker room. Berry offensively struggled until late in the second half when some free throws and late buckets helped repair his stat line on his way to finishing with 16 points. Luke Maye was, once again, a force with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Pinson finished the game with a double-double after pulling down 10 rebounds. It was his third straight game with double digit points and the first time he’d accomplished that in his career. His production helped take the sting out of Berry’s struggles.
There was a moment in the game when things looked like they might unravel. Berry was fouled going up for a basket and ended up on his back on the floor. Jose Alvarado channeled his inner Allen Iverson and stepped over the reigning Final Four Most Outstanding Player in what could only be described as a moment of madness. Berry was restrained by his teammates before the situation escalated, and Alvarado was given a technical for his efforts.
Carolina faithful didn’t let Alvarado forget his display of disrespect for the remainder of the game, heartily booing him every time he touched the ball from that point on. Can’t say he didn’t deserve it.
Today’s win was an important one because it really exemplified that the team has a toughness that helps power them when someone like Berry isn’t scoring the way we are accustomed to seeing. Rebounding was a huge reason why the Heels were able to maintain a lead over the Yellow Jackets, out-rebounding GT 46-25. That led to UNC besting Georgia Tech in second chance points 26-4.
Not to be overlooked, Cameron Johnson had another really strong game. He scored 16 points and nailed two three-pointers. On a night when the long ball was just not falling for UNC, his contributions were very welcome.
Carolina has a date with Virginia Tech on Monday night in Blacksburg for their next game.