North Carolina powered through its ACC opener on the road with a 79-62 win over Georgia Tech Sunday in McCamish Pavilion.
The Heels (6-2, 1-0 ACC) wrestled control of the game early in the second half with a 22-4 run. R.J. Davis had nine points on three 3-pointers during the decisive span and finished with a game-high 23 points.
A key for Carolina defensively was how it shut down the Yellow Jackets (5-3, 0-1) from the perimeter. Tech began the game making their first five 3-point attempts led by two each from Deebo Coleman and Khalid Moore. But the Heels shut down their shots from behind the arc in the second half, holding them to just 1-for-8 shooting.
Here’s what we learned from the Tar Heels’ performance:
The Tar Heels were determined not to let the nation’s leading scorer get into a rhythm. Carolina senior forward Leaky Black defended Michael DeVoe, who entered averaging 25 points per game for the Jackets, for most of the game.
Black’s best defense was denying DeVoe the ball and for portions of the first half Black took him entirely out of the offense when operating in the halfcourt. Black even forced him into one turnover
DeVoe was only 1-for-2 shooting with Black guarding him in the first half and his lone made basket was a long 3-pointer he pulled in transition.
Black picked up two fouls in consecutive possessions in the first half and sat for the remaining three minutes. Anthony Harris then accepted the assignment for UNC. DeVoe scored on a layup almost immediately as Harris entered the game.
DeVoe started the second half with two more baskets in transition, but never got into a groove. He finished with 13 points, nearly tying his season-low of 11 points against Lamar.
Big difference between last year and this year
Georgia Tech started off the game playing zone. Against the Carolina team that could only shoot 30 percent from 3-point range last season, the Jackets probably would have been able to stay with it longer. But Caleb Love made two 3-pointers, including one where Dawson Garcia made a perfect pass from the post, and the Jackets came out of the zone quickly.
Carolina finished 10-for-17 from 3-point range for the game, with all of their makes coming from Davis, Caleb Love and Brady Manek.
The passing game
Carolina entered the game with assists on 49 percent of its made baskets. That puts the Heels in the bottom half of NCAA Division I teams, ranking 220 nationally according to Ken Pomeroy.
Against the Jackets, they shared the ball better than any game this season.
Their previous high for assists in a game this season was 19 against the College of Charleston. Not only did they surpass that with 21 assists against Tech, those assists came on 67 percent of their made baskets.
The unselfishness displayed by Carolina didn’t necessarily translate into a flawless game handling the ball. UNC, as did Tech, got sloppy at times and finished with 14 turnovers that led to 18 Tech points. Many of those turnovers came from being out of control: skip passes against the Jackets’ zone ended up in the front row of the audience, passes were mishandled in the lane leading to transition opportunities for Tech.