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UNC lives to fight another day after blowout win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament

Balanced scoring and free throws helped propel the Tar Heels past the Hokies.

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

North Carolina had one of their best shooting performances of the season at exactly the right time in Tuesday’s win over Virginia Tech to open the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels were without Cole Anthony and Brandon Robinson when these two teams met in the regular season, and both played a big part in making sure the Heels were still playing when Tuesday concluded.

Garrison Brooks led the way for UNC with 20 points with eight of his points coming at the free throw line. UNC made a living at the charity stripe in Tuesday’s game, converting on 19 of their 25 attempts. Virginia Tech made all but one of their shots from the line, but they only attempted 11. A lot of that likely comes down to the way the Hokies play. They took 36 of their 62 shots from beyond the arc. That will obviously limit chances to get fouled. Free throws haven’t been gimmes for UNC by any means this year, so seeing them come out on top in that category was a real positive.

Three other starters joined Brooks in double figures for the Heels. Senior Brandon Robinson scored 17 points and had six rebounds, getting most of his points on five three-pointers. The game felt solidly in UNC’s favor when Robinson hit two threes on back-to-back possessions in the second half. The crowd roared like it was the Dean Dome and it felt as safe to believe in a victory as we’ve felt all season at that point. Armando Bacot had 12 points and 11 rebounds, easily leading the team in boards. Cole Anthony had 10 points.

Carolina shot 46% from the field for the game to Virginia Tech’s 29%. That included an outstanding 55% clip from the field for UNC in the second half when they were really able to put the Hokies away. The lead swelled to as many as 25 with under six minutes left. Neither team really turned the ball over (8 for UNC, 7 for VT) which limited easy opportunities for the other team.

The biggest obstacle for Virginia Tech was UNC’s size inside. They had no answers for Brooks or Bacot, which shows up on the stat sheet in the rebounding margin (45-30 UNC) and the points in the paint (32-12). The Hokies played exactly the way they are designed to, with a large chunk of their shots coming from distance, but they have struggled as of late with getting those shots to fall. Tonight was a combination of missing good looks and the Heels playing pretty good defense. It certainly helped UNC that they were able to give seven of their shots from beyond the arc to fall as well.

Carolina will get another chance to hang around for another day in the late game from Greensboro tomorrow night as they take on Syracuse and the zone. UNC beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome less than two weeks ago. Hopefully they have another win in them against Jim Boeheim’s squad this year.