It was the first time that Carolina played on Tuesday of the ACC tournament, but that wasn’t a factor in the 78-56 rout of Virginia Tech. The task of winning 5 games in 5 days is daunting, but the only way to achieve such a feat is to take it one game at a time. The Hokies took down Carolina back in January in Blacksburg. That team that suited up for Roy Williams, wasn’t the same that that dressed tonight, which smelled bad news for the slumping home team. Garrison Brooks was the best player on the court for either team, scoring 20 points on 6-11 shooting. It was the seventh straight 20 points game for Brooks, who earlier this week was named the ACC Most Improved Player. His running mate Armando Bacot recorded his 10th double double which is second all time as a freshman at UNC. Overall Carolina put 4 starters in double figures scoring, while shooting 46% from the field. Despite the poor shooting percentage, they absolutely punished Virginia Tech on the glass 45-30. After having only 6 offensive rebounds in Blacksburg, they grabbed 13 tonight. They then took those 13 offensive rebounds, and turned them into 15 points.
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but right now it’s now about how you win, as long as you win. When you have to win 5 games in as many days, you’re going to have to find different ways to win, and tonight was an example of that. Here’s how Carolina got the ACC Tournament started off right:
Balanced Offense: When Carolina is at its best under Roy Williams, they have 3 or 4 players capable of having big games. That type of production has been hard to come by this season, but it was there tonight. Garrison led the way with 20, Brandon Robinson added 17, Cole contributed with 10, and Armando added 11. When they have this kind of balance, it makes them so much tougher to defend, and opens different ways for multiple guys to score. It’ll need to stay consistent for the team to have an extended stay in Greensboro, and after tonight they’ll have the confidence to do so.
Controlled the Glass: In the first game between the two schools, Virginia Tech was very competitive on the backboards, despite being undersized. That wasn’t the case tonight, as from the onset Carolina imposed their will on the glass. Armando Bacot led the way with 11, but 4 more players had at least 4 rebounds or more. They also dominated the offense glass, and were more effective converting on second chance opportunities. If they're going to make a deep run, this is a great recipe for doing so.
Total Defensive Effort: In the three wins in 4 games to finish the season, the offense carried them to victory. Tonight it was the defense. Carolina allowed only 26 points on 29% in the first half. For the game they gave up 56, and held the Hokies to 29% shooting for the game. Virginia Tech loves to hoist the long ball, yet was only 10-36 from bonus territory. It was great to see this team compete, and have fun playing defense as everything is starting to fall into place.
Up Next: Carolina has roughly 24 hours between games, as they’ll take on Syracuse tomorrow night at 9:30. ESPN2 will have coverage as the Tar Heels will try to advance to the quarterfinals.