With the chance to take control of the ACC, the No. 9 North Carolina men’s basketball team turned in a statement win against visiting Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels romped the Hokies, 91-72, to remain the lone one-loss team in the ACC.
Initially, it appeared like the Hokies would give UNC a stiff test, as Buzz Williams’ gritty squad jumped out to an early lead after hitting three of its first four 3-pointers. The Tar Heels started out 1-for-5 from deep, but two straight 3-pointers by Joel Berry snapped UNC out of its funk.
After swapping leads for a few possessions, a five-point spurt from Nate Britt keyed by a Theo Pinson steal and assist gave UNC the lead for good. Then, Justin Jackson took over.
The junior forward hit a pair of 3-pointers, part of his 13 first-half points, to stretch UNC’s lead to 10. The Tar Heels used their advantage on the boards to keep Virginia Tech at arm’s length the rest of the half.
To open the second frame, the Tar Heels knocked down three straight 3-pointers — one each by Berry, Jackson and Kenny Williams — to put the game away for good.
Who stood out?
As one of the top rebounding teams in the nation, the Tar Heels put on a clinic during Thursday night’s win. UNC finished with a 43-22 advantage on the boards, including 19-4 on the offensive glass, led by Kennedy Meeks' 14 rebounds. The senior has firmly planted himself in Brice Johnson’s shoes as the team’s leading rebounder.
Berry and Jackson led the charge from deep as they continue UNC’s apparent evolution into a 3-point shooting team. Berry finished with 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting from deep, while Jackson added 26 and shot 5-for-12 from beyond the arc. Overall, UNC hit 14 3-pointers on 30 attempts, both of which are season highs.
When was it decided?
Though UNC entered the locker room firmly in control with a 44-33 lead, the Tar Heels put to rest any thought of a comeback with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half. Berry, Jackson and Williams hit from deep on consecutive possessions, and the outcome was never in doubt from there.
Why does it matter?
In a week where five of the eight teams ranked ahead of UNC in the AP poll lost, the win sets the Tar Heels up to jump back into at least the top five, potentially higher. With losses by Florida State and Notre Dame, the Tar Heels also remain the only ACC team with one loss — which came to the same Georgia Tech team that just knocked off the Seminoles. With the margins so tight in the ACC, any space helps.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels don’t have long before they have to pack up and head to Miami for a Saturday afternoon tip. UNC will play at 1 p.m. and try to earn a hard-fought ACC road win.
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