UNC basketball buzzes past Georgia Tech in a 79-63 win

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UNC’s P.J. Hairston sizes up Georgia Tech guard Solomon Poole.

James Michael McAdoo knows there’s no such thing as an easy win in the ACC. Not this season. Not after upsets of Duke and N.C. State in the last few weeks and not after North Carolina opened its own conference slate with back-to-back losses.

So even though the Yellow Jackets (10-7, 0-5 ACC) came to the Smith Center on Wednesday night without a single win in the ACC, and even though a matchup with N.C. State looms Saturday, McAdoo and the Tar Heels didn’t take them lightly.

UNC (13-5, 3-2) opened Wednesday night’s game with vigor and intensity, jumping out to a 30-17 lead and building on that cushion in the second half to close out the 79-63 win.

“We can’t have any letdowns, especially against good teams like Georgia Tech — any team in the ACC,” said McAdoo, who scored 14 points and tallied nine rebounds. “Every game you play, a team can beat you by who knows how much if you don’t show up ready to play.”

It all went smoothly for the Tar Heels — or so the final score would seem to indicate. But true to form, the Tar Heels allowed Georgia Tech to very nearly make a game of it.

The Yellow Jackets never led, but they threatened to loosen UNC’s grip on the lead as the first half closed, going on a 15-6 run to narrow the margin to 36-32 with two minutes left in the half.

“I think we saw that we were building a lead and things were coming pretty easily,” McAdoo said. “I think that it was just a sign of us being young.”

In early conference games, that sort of performance entering halftime likely would have spelled trouble for the Tar Heels; they held slim halftime leads in the ACC-opening losses to Virginia and Miami before melting in the second half.

Even in Saturday’s win against Maryland, UNC put together a second half that coach Roy Williams said was like something out of a Michael Jackson “Thriller” video.

But on Wednesday, the Tar Heels began the second half with renewed aggressiveness. They carved through Georgia Tech’s frontcourt early in the half, scoring eight straight points in the paint.

“Coach mentioned to us today about how (when) we played Maryland, we were great in the first half and then in the second half we kind of fell off,” senior Dexter Strickland said. “He was saying that it’s very important for us to bring that sense of urgency today in the second half, and I think our guys did a great job at it.”

Consecutive 3-pointers from P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock capped off a 15-8 run to open the second half and all but cemented a win for the Tar Heels.

And after an 0-2 start to ACC play, the Tar Heels have taken general strides in the right direction.

“I feel like we’re right around the corner,” Bullock said. “But we still have a lot more work to do, a lot of the season left, and I’m just glad that we pulled together as a team, and we have just have to fix a little more things and we’ll be there.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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