"I just went out there and told the guys, 'Listen, what happened Thursday is in the past,'" the senior said referring to UNC's 85-83 win against No. 2 Duke. "'If we focus on it too long, we're going to get smacked in the mouth, so we need to get out there and focus on this game.'"
The Yellow Jackets delivered that blow to the jaw, grabbing an early 11-3 lead. But the No. 4 Tar Heels responded with a 27-2 run of their own and cruised to a 82-69 victory.
It marked the 16th straight win for North Carolina (19-2, 9-0 in the ACC) and put the Tar Heels in position to claim the top spot in The Associated Press poll, which comes out today.
Saturday's game showcased UNC's balance and depth.
Five players scored in double figures; five players grabbed at least five rebounds. Joseph Forte led all scorers with 23 points and added nine rebounds. Kris Lang went for 15 points and seven rebounds. Jason Capel had 11 and 11.
But the bench made the difference. UNC's reserves outscored Georgia Tech's 26-13. Adam Boone posted a career-high 10 points, and Julius Peppers matched his career-best with 14.
"We have great players coming off the bench that can keep the game steady," said Boone, who also grabbed a career-high five rebounds.
"I thought it was just a good team effort," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "It was a good, old-fashioned team effort."
Never was that effort more evident than during UNC's first-half run. Six different players scored during the 27-2 run. The Tar Heels made 10 of their 14 field goal attempts during that span and scored 23 straight points to take a 30-13 lead.
"I didn't realize it was (23) points," said Haywood, who also blocked five shots. "We have a good blend of inside players, outside players and when it all comes together at one time, it can be something special."
Meanwhile, the defense forced Georgia Tech into missing 15-of-16 from the field during that stretch.
UNC made scoring difficult for Tech all day, holding it to 35 percent from the field, the seventh time in the last nine games it has kept an opponent under 40 percent.
And the Tar Heels were ready after all those Yellow Jacket misses, out-rebounding their opponent for the seventh consecutive game.
"They're pretty good in terms of keeping you to one shot and out," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.
But the scrappy Yellow Jackets didn't just buzz off, even after UNC took a 44-29 advantage into the half. Georgia Tech whittled the lead to 11 points four times after intermission by trapping and pressing the Tar Heels in the back court.
They goaded Ronald Curry into a charge -- his fifth foul -- and then used a 9-2 spurt to trim them margin to eight points at 70-62 with 4:30 to go.
The Tar Heels looked ripe for an upset without their point man. But Boone handled the pressure, making a jumper with the shot clock at one second and sinking two free throws down the stretch.
"They came back, but we weren't really stressed about it," Haywood said. "We've been in worse situations and won.
"We knew what we had to do, and we were able to pull it out."
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