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Heel Tough Blog: Georgia Tech Recap

Updated: Jan 31

AP Photo

It was bound to happen, and tonight Carolina’s 10-game winning streak came to an end, as they fell in Atlanta 74-73, as UNC fell for the first time in ACC play. The Tar Heels entered the game as heavy favorites against one of the worst teams in the ACC but learned a lesson many ranked teams have learned when playing on the road in conference play. 

Trailing 74-73 with under 5 seconds left, Hubert Davis drew up a great set out of a timeout and was able to get R.J. Davis on a downhill drive, but his shot clanked off the rim, after drawing contact from a Georgia Tech defender. Davis put Carolina ahead after he grabbed a loose ball, and ran down the other end to give UNC a 73-72 lead, as they went on a 13-4 run, after trailing 68-60 deep in the second half. On the ensuing possession, Nathan George put Armando Bacot in a pick-and-roll situation, and he was able to get the angle to the rim and was able to finish over his contest. 

Like on Saturday, Carolina raced out to an early double-digit lead but didn’t close the first half, seeing a 36-25 lead, turn into a 37-37 halftime score. This makes it back-to-back games that UNC has gotten off to a fast start but wasn’t able to sustain it throughout the game, and this time it allowed an inferior opponent to beat them. 

Carolina shot just 36% from the field, and 29% from behind the arc, as shot selection was a big problem, especially in the second half. More importantly, Carolina was just 9-17 from the foul line, their worst free throw shooting performance since they shot 39% at Louisville in 2021. R.J. Davis was sensational, scoring 28 points, on 11-24 shooting, but he was the only Tar Heel to score in double figures. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech became the first ACC team to score more than 70 points against UNC this season, and shot 41% from the field, 45% from deep, and converted on 15 of 17 foul shots. 

Heading into tonight’s game, the concern was if this team would be looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown against Duke, and whether they’ll admit it or not, their performance was indicative of a team that didn’t take tonight’s opponent seriously, a lesson you’d rather learn in late January, than early March.

  1. Final Possession: A lot of conversation coming out of tonight’s game will be about the contact that was allowed on R.J. Davis’s final shot of the game, where there was clear contact on the shot. Simply put, the game should’ve never come down to an official blowing the whistle on a potential foul to bail you out. It was a great set out of the timeout by Hubert Davis, that you feel confident if put in the same position, Davis converts and UNC wins the game. 

  2. Free Throw Shooting: There have been games in the win streak that Carolina was able to overcome an inefficient shooting night at the foul line, but tonight that wasn’t the case. Carolina was 9-17 from the charity stripe, their worst performance in that category in over two seasons. On the other hand, Georgia Tech went 15-17 from the foul line, including Nate George, who was 8-10 from the charity stripe. There’s no doubt this was the difference in the game. 

  3. Defense: The defense took a step back tonight, as they struggled to defend the perimeter as much as they have in any ACC game this season. The Yellow Jackets were 9-20 from deep, as four different players connected from deep. Miles Kelly was hot in the first half, on his way to scoring 15 points. In the second half, it was Kyle Sturdivant carrying the load, on the way to 18 points. 

  4. Bench: There have been games in conference play where Carolina’s bench was the difference, but that wasn’t the case tonight, as Georgia Tech’s bench outscored Carolina’s 39-14, behind the 18 points from Sturdivant. Jalen Washington scored 8 points in 10 minutes, and Seth Trimble added 6 in his 22 minutes, but he was just 2-7 from the field, and 2-5 from the foul line. Jae’Lyn Withers played 7 minutes, but not only did he fail to score, he failed to even attempt a shot. 

  5. First-Half Turnovers: A big reason reason why Carolina’s first-half lead was erased was because they committed 10 first-half turnovers. While Georgia Tech only scored 9 points off their turnovers, those empty possessions proved costly as the game stayed close in the second half. 

  6. Perimeter Shooting: The Tar Heels have failed to shoot the ball consistently from the perimeter, and that was the case tonight. UNC was 8-28 from deep, even though Cormac Ryan and R.J. Davis both connected on three triples, but they did so on 18 attempts. They’ll need to shoot better moving forward if they want to stay atop the ACC. 

Up Next: Carolina returns home on Saturday, as they host Duke, in the first meeting between the two rivals this season. College GameDay will be on hand for the game, ahead of the 6:30 tip on ESPN.

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