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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 3 UNC men's basketball falls to Georgia Tech, 74-73, in biggest upset of the season

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UNC guard RJ Davis (4) passes the ball during the men's basketball game against Georgia Tech in the Dean Smith Center on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. UNC beat Georgia Tech 75-59.

The Tar Heels fell victim to a trap game in Atlanta, as long scoring droughts and poor free throw shooting led to UNC’s biggest upset loss of the season. No. 3 North Carolina (17-4, 9-1 ACC) fell to Georgia Tech (10-11, 3-7 ACC) 74-73 on Tuesday night at the McCamish Pavilion. 

Senior guard RJ Davis was the only North Carolina player to reach double digits in scoring on the night, finishing with 28 points.  

The Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets traded baskets early. After Davis opened UNC’s scoring with his signature floater, he cashed in on a stepback three just a few minutes later. 

Following the game’s first TV timeout, the Tar Heels embarked on a 12-0 run, starting with back-to-back baskets in the post from graduate center Armando Bacot. First-year guard Elliot Cadeau also got his name into the mix by scoring an old-fashioned 3-point play to cap off the run. 

The Tar Heels couldn't hold on to their early double-digit lead, though. For an eight-minute stretch late in the first half, a lone pair of 3-pointers from graduate guard Cormac Ryan accounted for UNC’s only points. Georgia Tech dominated the final four and half minutes of the first period, tying the game in the final second of the half.

The scoring struggles stemmed in part from 10 Tar Heel turnovers and an abysmal free throw percentage of just 33 percent that allowed the Yellow Jackets to stifle several UNC possessions. 

Through 20, North Carolina and Georgia Tech were knotted up at 37 apiece. 

Davis led UNC in first-half scoring with 11, despite not recording a basket in the final nine minutes. It was Yellow Jacket guard Miles Kelly who gave the Tar Heels' defense fits as he recorded a game-high 15 points in the first 20 minutes. 

Davis worked his way back into the scorebook early in the second half. Two jumpers, along with a pair of free throws, placed UNC back in front. It wasn’t for long, however, as the Yellow Jackets answered with back-to-back three pointers soon after.

The Tar Heels trailed by two at the under-twelve timeout. 

A smooth euro step by sophomore guard Seth Trimble added rare bench points for the Tar Heels in transition. His crafty footwork was outshadowed moments later though when Georgia Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant hit a smooth fadeaway to tally his 10th second-half point. 

And as the Yellow Jackets converted to an occasional 2-3 look on defense, UNC’s shooting woes continued to surface. The Tar Heels shot under 15 percent from three in the second half on 14 attempts.

Georgia Tech claimed its largest lead of the night when an out-of-position Bacot conceded a 3-point play with 5:30 left in the game. Quick responses from Davis and Trimble cut the Yellow Jacket lead down to one possession – before full-court pressure from UNC and another Davis layup brought the Tar Heels within one point at the under-four timeout. 

Down the stretch, a clutch three from junior guard Harrison Ingram followed a banked three from the Yellow Jackets. With under a minute to go, Davis broke free from the Georgia Tech defense in transition and finished a tough transition layup to give the Tar Heels a one-point lead with 34 seconds to play. 

Georgia Tech answered the basket with a layup from first-year Naithan George and took back the lead with seven seconds remaining. In the game’s final possession, Davis´ floater fell short as time expired. 

The road loss blemished a perfect month of basketball for UNC, as the Tar Heels finished 9-1 in the month of January. 

North Carolina will welcome the Duke Blue Devils to the Dean E. Smith Center this Saturday as the rivals face off for the 259th time.

@cadeshoemaker23

@dthsports l sports@dailytarheel.com

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