The Tar Heels faced off against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Dean Dome looking to break .500 and improve their conference record to 3-2 before Saturdays showdown with NC State.
Carolina will be without Leslie McDonald for the next three games, McDonald has missed the last three contests with a knee injury and will be held out of action until February 2nd contest with Virginia Tech. Head coach Roy Williams stated that McDonald did not fulfill his obligations as a student athlete, McDonald will practice but will not dress or play in the next three games.
Keeping an eye on the rotation Desmond Hubert again started at the center position. Joel James and P.J. Hairston entered the game first off the Carolina bench at the 16 minute mark. J.P. Tokoto got some early playing time at the 15:45 mark with Reggie Bullock taking an early seat on the bench after some questionable shot selection. Brice Johnson entered the game at the 14 minute mark as nine players saw action in the first six minutes of the game.
The Tar Heels established the tempo they wanted but were unable to take the kind of commanding lead they were capable of early due to some questionable shot selection with James Michael McAdoo putting up a three early in the shot clock and Bullock launching one from near the mid court line.
The defensive intensity was there early with Carolina leading by as much as 15 but Georgia Tech went on an 8-1 run to cut the lead to six by out rebounding UNC and capitalizing on second chance opportunities. Carolina remained cold the rest of the first half after looking they were going to blow out the Yellow Jackets up 32-17 at one point led by just eight at half time.
Carolina passed the ball well with 11 assists on 16 made baskets in the first half. The Yellow Jackets held a surprising advantage in the rebounding category 28-20 with eight offensive boards to UNCs four in the first 20 minutes. Nine Tar Heels scored in the first half led by Bullock’s nine followed by Hairston with eight and McAdoo with seven. Hairston and McAdoo both drew two first half fouls which limited their minutes a bit.
Score at the half: UNC 40 Georgia Tech 32
The second half started with UNC hitting the boards hard and starting out the half on a 9-2 run to force an early timeout by matching their biggest lead of 15. After starting sharp the first four minutes of the half UNC began playing sloppy basketball again with three straight turnovers and just when it looked like Carolina was going to let the Jackets back in the game Hairston and Bullock hit back to back three pointers to put UNC back up by 15.
The back and forth nature of the game continued with Carolina not quite pulling completely away from Tech and at the same time the Yellow Jackets couldn’t get close enough to really make it a game. UNC finally took the air out of Georgia Tech when a Dexter Strickland steal led to a highlight reel dunk from P.J. Hairston in transition that the ESPN crew working the game compared to a LeBron James type of dunk. That dunk put UNC up 20 and for the remainder of the contest they held at least a 15 point lead for the remainder.
Final Score: UNC 79 Georgia Tech 63
Player of the game: I’m taking P.J. Hairston here, although Bullock scored more points and he and McAdoo rebounded the ball better it was Hairston that came up big when the team needed it. When Georgia Tech started to surge in the second half after UNCs initial run it was Hairston that settled the Tar Heels with a big three pointer. And in a game where it seemed like UNC would just continue to allow the Yellow Jackets to creep back into the game and were almost refusing to put them away it was Hairstons huge transition dunk that seemed to put Georgia Tech in their grave.