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Harrison Ingram's rebounding helps No. 7 Tar Heels in win over Virginia Tech

UNC MEN'S BASKETBALL VS. VIRGINIA TECH
UNC junior forward Harrison Ingram (55) dribbles the ball away from Virginia Tech sophomore guard Tyler Nickel (23) during the men’s basketball game against Virginia Tech at the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. UNC beat Virginia Tech 96-81.

Harrison Ingram’s batteries were low — so much so that he had to go into low-power mode.

This is unexpected from Ingram, who has brought a jolt of energy to the Tar Heels this season. But in the past two games, he felt he wasn't bringing it at the same level. So leading up to Saturday’s contest — one North Carolina needed to win, not only to stay atop the ACC standings, but to get back on track — Ingram made his recovery a point of emphasis. 

“This week I had to refocus and kind of reset,” Ingram said.

He spent time in the ice tub and made sure to get good sleep. He needed to plug in and charge up. He did, and it showed in the Tar Heels’ 96-81 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday. He recorded a double-double (by halftime), finishing with 12 points and grabbing 17 boards. After sputtering as of late with losses in three of the last five games — most recently to Syracuse on the road Tuesday night — North Carolina got a much needed, comfortable win. 

After MJ Collins scored the first five points of the game for the Hokies, Ingram punctuated a 10-0 UNC run with seven straight points. Ingram was an absolute force on the boards all afternoon. It felt like every missed UNC shot he was getting his hands on the basketball, trying to tap it out and create extra possessions — or, alternatively, earning a put-back complete with a roar. 

“The ball finds effort,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “It just does. And he goes to the offensive glass every time. It’s not surprising that the ball ends up in his hands.”

For Ingram, it was just a matter of getting in the zone. As to which zone, that depends on the game. Sometimes shooting. Sometimes steals. And Saturday? Rebounding.

“I’m pretty good at anticipating where the ball is going to go,” Ingram said. “I just trust my instincts. They tell me to crash the boards every time."

So, Ingram grabbed a lot of rebounds and the Tar Heels rebounded from a rough stretch with a win. Now North Carolina has a chance to head into its road clash against Virginia next weekend — after a week-long break — with the right kind of momentum.

“It’s great,” Ryan said. “It gives us a chance to get our bodies right, to address some things in practice, to really tighten up and get ready for a very important stretch of the season."

The stretch Ryan is referring to is the one where the ACC regular season title will be won or lost. It begins next weekend in Charlottesville, a place UNC hasn’t won at since 2012, against a team that is right behind the Tar Heels in the standings. The march to March is on, and the goal of a regular season title is front and center.

“It’s important,” Davis said Friday before the Virginia Tech game. “It means something. It means something to us. It means something to this program. And I let the guys know that.”

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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