North Carolina's Marcus Paige, left, reaches in on Virginia Tech's Malik Muller during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome
January 18, 2015

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina kept giving the ball away and didn't get much scoring from its best player. Still, the No. 15 Tar Heels did plenty to beat struggling Virginia Tech by double figures.

North Carolina held on for a sloppy 68-53 victory over the Hokies on Sunday night behind 16 points from Justin Jackson.

''Sometimes you've got to win ugly to have a really good year,'' coach Roy Williams said, ''and that was an ugly win.''

Brice Johnson added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels (14-4, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 44 percent and overcame 17 turnovers - their most in nearly a month - by forcing 14 from Virginia Tech.

Marcus Paige, the ACC's preseason player of the year, finished with just eight points - matching his second-lowest-scoring game of the year - on 3-of-10 shooting.

He briefly left the court midway through the second half after team spokesman Steve Kirschner said he was elbowed in his right hip and suffered a bruise.

Still, the Tar Heels did some things right: They held the Hokies scoreless for nearly 7 minutes and outrebounded them 49-22, allowing them just four offensive boards.

''It's just really hard when you get beat on the glass'' like that, Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said.

Adam Smith had 11 points to lead Virginia Tech (8-9, 0-4), which cut an 18-point deficit to eight and closed to 61-53 on Smith's 3-pointer with just over 2 minutes left.

Theo Pinson countered with a dunk, and J.P. Tokoto, Brice Johnson and Nate Britt combined to hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute.

Shane Henry added 10 points for the Hokies, who were without leading scorer Justin Bibbs (concussion).

They made more 3-pointers (10) than 2-pointers (nine) but shot just 36 percent, lost their fifth straight overall and fell to 0-5 on the road.

Tokoto finished with 10 points for the Tar Heels, who never trailed but struggled to give themselves much separation in a largely disjointed game.

The difference came during the 7-minute stretch of the first half in which North Carolina scored 11 straight points while pushing its lead into double figures.

During that time, the Hokies - a 47 percent shooting team - simply went cold: After Jalen Hudson's 3 pulled them to 19-16 with just under 10 minutes to go, they missed 10 straight shots.

COURTSIDE

Virginia Tech had 11 consecutive empty possessions late in the first half - and even the officials helped prolong that scoring drought. After Ahmed Hill hit a free throw with 4:21 left, the officials determined that Henry should have been at the foul line instead. So they took that point off the board, put Henry at the line - and he missed both free throws.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Jackson, a 6-foot-8 forward, didn't manage a rebound in the Tar Heels' last game against N.C. State. So he said assistant coach Hubert Davis told him that ''if I don't get five or more rebounds (against Virginia Tech), I've got to babysit his kids.'' Jackson, who had seven rebounds, added that ''I'm off the hook for today.''

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies fell to 6-45 in conference games in the series with North Carolina, which includes both the ACC and Southern Conference.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels didn't attempt a free throw in the first half - its first half without a foul shot in two years.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech is home against No. 12 Notre Dame on Thursday night.

North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Wednesday night.

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Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap

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