North Carolina-Georgia Tech Preview
Despite its recent struggles, North Carolina is still in the running for a double-bye in the ACC tournament.
The 19th-ranked Tar Heels try to inch closer to the league's fourth spot Tuesday night as they go for a sixth consecutive win over Georgia Tech, which is set to close what's been a disappointing regular season.
North Carolina (20-9, 10-6) sits in fifth place in the conference, one game behind Louisville with two to play. The Tar Heels wrap things up against No. 3 Duke on Saturday after what appears to be an easier matchup at McCamish Pavilion, but the Cardinals could have their hands full with two showdowns against No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 2 Virginia.
While North Carolina fell four spots in the latest AP poll after last Tuesday's surprising 58-46 loss to N.C. State, coach Roy Williams' group bounced back to win 73-64 at Miami on Saturday. Brice Johnson had 22 points and 11 rebounds, J.P. Tokoto scored 10 with 10 boards and the Tar Heels held a 42-28 edge on the glass.
North Carolina pulled away after the Hurricanes tied things up at 50 with 9:03 to go, improving to 3-5 over its last eight.
"We've been in that situation before," Johnson, averaging 19.8 points on 68.0 percent shooting over his last four road games, told the school's official website. "We know we've been there. We have to play with composure and do all the little things coach tells us to do."
Marcus Paige added 17 points for his highest total in eight games.
"This time we made enough winning plays to make the difference," Paige said.
North Carolina also played well in handily getting by Georgia Tech 89-60 on Feb. 21. Kennedy Meeks scored 18 points to lead six players in double figures for the Tar Heels, who shot a season-high 62.3 percent while holding the Yellow Jackets to 38.3.
"We got beat by a superior team today, there's no question about it, that played at a really high level," Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. "And I'm OK with that, as long as you compete."
North Carolina has outscored the Yellow Jackets by an average of 16.4 points during its run in the series.
While its record leaves much to be desired, Georgia Tech (12-17, 3-14) has hung tough in league play. The Yellow Jackets have compiled an 0-10 record against fellow ACC foes in games decided by five points or fewer or in overtime.
Georgia Tech is coming off another close call, falling 70-63 in OT at Clemson on Saturday. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 20 points to help the Yellow Jackets make a game of it after trailing by as many as 23.
"It's difficult to bounce back from that deficit, and our guys showed a lot in terms of doing that," Gregory said. "Obviously that's a great character trait. But you're supposed to have that."
The Yellow Jackets are 1-6 against Top 25 teams, with their lone win coming 70-50 at then-No. 23 Miami on Jan. 28. They have dropped seven straight home matchups against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 17 Clemson on Jan. 19, 2010.
North Carolina is averaging 78.1 points to rank third in the conference, and it's 19-2 when scoring more than 70. However, Georgia Tech is giving up 60.2 per game at home for one of the ACC's lowest marks.