Georgia Tech-North Carolina Preview
North Carolina's offense showed little signs of slowing down in its ACC opener despite an off night from leading scorer Brice Johnson.
That's similar to what happened the last time it faced Georgia Tech.
The seventh-ranked Tar Heels crushed the Yellow Jackets twice last season to extend their win streak to six in this series heading into Saturday's matchup in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina (12-2, 1-0) shot 50 percent and put five players in double figures in Wednesday's 80-69 win over Clemson. Johnson was not one of them, scoring a season-low three points on 1-of-8 shooting after he entered averaging 16.2.
That marked Johnson's lowest scoring effort since he scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting in an 81-49 win at Georgia Tech (10-3, 0-0) on March 3. The Tar Heels shot 53.1 percent in their biggest victory in the series since a 92-55 home rout Jan. 24, 1987.
North Carolina also cruised past the Yellow Jackets 89-60 on Feb. 21, shooting 62.3 percent for its best mark in the last eight seasons versus a Division I foe.
Kennedy Meeks scored 26 points in last season's games against Georgia Tech and Justin Jackson had 24. Meeks, however, is expected to miss his sixth straight game with a bone bruise in his knee.
The Tar Heels didn't need him in their fifth straight win as Marcus Paige scored 18 points and Joel Berry II added 16. North Carolina has shot at least 50 percent in 10 games, though its 34.8 3-point percentage is sixth-worst in the conference.
''I think we have some good parts,'' coach Roy Williams said. ''We haven't shot the ball well. ... When we start shooting the ball and still get the offensive rebounds, we can be really good offensively.''
The Tar Heels are 7-1 with Paige in the lineup after the star guard missed the first six games with a hand injury. Paige was held without an assist for the first time since last year's NCAA Tournament.
Georgia Tech has dropped nine straight ACC openers. The Yellow Jackets are 8-27 on the road in ACC play in five seasons under Brian Gregory, who took over as coach in the season this losing streak to the Tar Heels began.
With four seniors in the starting lineup, Georgia Tech is hoping experience will pay off in conference play.
"We had a slip-up here and there in the nonconference but at 10-3 I feel good about where we're at because I feel like we can still get better," Gregory said.
Marcus Georges-Hunt averages a team-high 14.5 points as one of four Yellow Jackets to score at least 10 per game. He has reached double digits three times in five games against the Tar Heels.
"We're a team that we have to count on different guys every night," Gregory said.
Georges-Hunt scored 20 points and Adam Smith added 17 Tuesday in the Yellow Jackets' third straight win, 73-67 over Duquesne.
This contest should feature a good battle on the boards. Georgia Tech is third in the ACC in rebounding margin and among the top 20 nationally at plus-10.5 and North Carolina is fourth at plus-10.3.