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Saturday January 16th

What UNC basketball needs to do to beat Virginia Tech and stop its losing streak

<p>Head Coach Roy Williams yells during &nbsp;the game against Clemson in the Dean Smith Center on on Saturday Jan. 11, 2020. &nbsp;UNC lost to Clemson 79-76, ending the Tigers 0-59 losing streak in Chapel Hill.</p>
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Head Coach Roy Williams yells during  the game against Clemson in the Dean Smith Center on on Saturday Jan. 11, 2020.  UNC lost to Clemson 79-76, ending the Tigers 0-59 losing streak in Chapel Hill.

UNC basketball is in flux right now. After getting outplayed by Pittsburgh on Saturday, the Tar Heels will look to stop their second four-game losing streak of the season when they travel to Blacksburg to battle Virginia Tech on Wednesday. 

Here's what they need to do to end the skid and finally give Roy Williams his 880th win. 

Defend the three

North Carolina hasn't been able to defend much of anything this season, but opposing teams have especially been lighting it up from behind the arc. Pittsburgh, one of the worst shooting teams in the country, went 8-12 from deep in the second half in the teams' first meeting. In the rematch, the Panthers shot 40 percent from 3-point range in the first half to give themselves a 20-point lead. 

The threes Clemson hit in the heartbreaker last week? You can watch those for yourself.

Virginia Tech's offense is built around the 3-point shot. The Hokies are in the top 50 in 3-pointers attempted and make the eighth-most per game (10.4) so far this season. 

With UNC's scoring struggles, it's become imperative for the team to sell out on defense, so the team doesn't get caught on the wrong side of the math game. 

That means locking down VT's Jalen Cone, who is shooting a wild 55.7 percent from deep this season and who went 4-8 from 3 against Syracuse last Saturday in his first career start. Landers Nolley II is also shooting 38.3 percent while taking on the brunt of the Hokies' scoring load (17.8 points per game). 

Take advantage of size

The one thing teams can't take away from UNC is its size — the Tar Heels have been a "good, not great" rebounding team this season, according to Roy Williams. Offensive rebounding from Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot has been one of the few things buoying the offense when UNC goes on a dry stretch. 

Against Syracuse, Virginia Tech didn't start a player taller than 6-foot-7. The Hokies tallest player, John Ojiako (6-foot-10), hasn't cracked double-digit minutes in the past four games. North Carolina needs to press its advantage and try and rebound every time a shot goes up, and draw fouls with its size. 

Brooks has been a steadying force for North Carolina, and the small Virginia Tech team shouldn't pose problems if he can get the ball man-on-man in the post. It'll be up to Bacot to find some consistency, stay out of foul trouble and punish VT for its lack of size. 

No second half runs

The first 10 minutes of the second half seem to be UNC's Achilles' heel this season. Gonzaga, Yale and Pittsburgh have all punished North Carolina in the opening minutes of the second half, leading to some bad losses and one close win.

UNC has been anything but consistent this year, and the team has wilted after taking its opponents' best punch. Finding a way to counter when a team goes on a run and staying composed on the court are the biggest challenges North Carolina needs to figure out for the rest of this season. 

Virginia Tech brings plenty of firepower — the Tar Heels need to find a way to not let that scare them. 

@bg_keyes

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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