In Marcus Ginyard’s first action in three games, the senior managed only two points, two rebounds and one assist during No. 9 North Carolina’s 78-64 win against Virginia Tech.
Not exactly numbers that jump out of a box score.
But to UNC point guard Larry Drew II, Ginyard’s return to the floor couldn’t have been better timed.
Saddled with three quick fouls in the first half guarding the Hokies’ Malcolm Delaney, who had already registered 20 points, Drew needed a new defensive assignment in order to spend more time on the court rather than in foul trouble on UNC’s bench.
So near the beginning of the second half, coach Roy Williams looked to Ginyard. And the senior didn’t disappoint.
“It was something I think that helped a lot,” Drew said on switching off of Delaney. “We closed the gaps on him. We made it hard for him to find his teammates.”
Ginyard began defending Delaney after a first half in which Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1 ACC) outhustled and outmuscled UNC (12-4, 1-0) on its way to a 38-34 halftime lead. The Hokies snared 11 first-half offensive rebounds out of the grasp of UNC’s mammoth front line, several of which they turned into easy layups.
And Drew and Dexter Strickland were struggling in perimeter defense against Delaney, who scored 20 points before intermission, eight of which came at the free-throw line.
But playing against Ginyard and UNC double teams for much of the second half, Delaney only mustered six more points to finish with a game-high 26.
“We really tried to make everything as tough as possible for (Delaney), just make him shoot over our hand, not let him get to the basket,” Ginyard said. “We stayed on the ground, not jumping into the air and not running into him like we were doing in the first half.”
Without the hassle of having to match up with Delaney, Drew began to find his rhythm in the UNC offense. After a first half in which he registered just one assist and one turnover, the sophomore dished out eight assists to only one turnover after the break.
His play helped UNC quickly erase its halftime deficit and push into a lead that hovered around five points for most of the second half.
“(Drew’s) had some games where he’s had flashes like that,” Williams said.
“You feel a heck of a lot better, but it makes him feel a heck of a lot better.”
UNC broke the game open late in the second half on a slew of three-pointers.
After a slow start — the Tar Heels missed their first eleven tries from behind the arc — Will Graves finally broke through for a triple to put UNC up 60-52.
“At a point in time you say it’s time to knock down a shot, and thank God it went in,” Graves said.
After the Hokies responded with three-pointer on the other end, Graves found the bottom of the net again from behind the arc a minute later to push the margin back to eight, and then Drew got in on the action.
The point guard drained a three-pointer on UNC’s next possession, and then, after two defensive stops, UNC ended any hope of a Virginia Tech comeback with another Graves triple that pushed the lead to 69-55.
“There’s no looking back,” Graves said. “As a shooter, when you see one go in you want to see the rest of them go in.”
And unlike last Monday’s game against College of Charleston, the Hokies would not mount a furious rally in the final minutes, as UNC cruised in the final four minutes.
“The other night at Charleston we screwed some things up but everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Williams said. “I do think we handled it better.”
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