Off to their best start in Atlantic Coast Conference play since 2000-01, No. 3 North Carolina attempts to push its winning streak to 10 games on Tuesday against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
The Tar Heels (17-3, 9-0 ACC) defeated Florida State for the second time this season in a 75-68 win on Saturday. The seven-point win was the Tar Heels’ smallest conference game margin of victory this season, and it only was achieved after North Carolina overcame a five-point halftime deficit.
The Tar Heels went on a 10-0 run in the second half to grab the lead, then held the Seminoles scoreless in the final 2 minutes, 37 seconds to seal the win.
“We don’t panic. There’s a calmness and a confidence about this group that’s always been there,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “One of the things that we talk a lot about is living in the trenches. And, you know, I tell them, in the trenches, that’s where the rebounds, the loose balls, the talking on defense, the box outs. … Just the little things that mean so many big things, especially down the stretch.”
The victory strengthened the Tar Heels’ grasp on first place in the conference. Three teams — Duke, Virginia and FSU — are tied for second place with six ACC wins.
RJ Davis led the Tar Heels in the win over the Seminoles with 24 points, while freshman Elliott Cadeau notched a season-high 16 points to go along with six assists. Harrison Ingram added 13 points and 17 boards for his sixth double-double of the season.
While Armando Bacot leads North Carolina in rebounding with 9.9 per game on the season, Ingram leads all ACC players in conference play with 11.3 boards per game through nine contests. Davis leads the Tar Heels and the ACC in scoring with 21.2 points per game.
While North Carolina is alone at the top of the ACC standings, Georgia Tech (9-11, 2-7) is trying to claw its way up from the bottom. The Yellow Jackets have lost eight of their last nine games, with the lone bright spot in that stretch being a 93-90 double-overtime win at Clemson on Jan. 16.
Most recently, Georgia Tech lost on the road Saturday at Virginia Tech, 91-67. Defense is easy to blame, as the Yellow Jackets allowed the Hokies to shoot 55.2 percent from the floor and 44.2 percent from 3-point land. Virginia Tech also forced just seven turnovers to 23 assists on 32 made baskets.
“They got to be a bit more disciplined,” first-year Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire said. “I think, you know, right now, it rattles us when we get in these atmospheres. When the games start to get fast, we got to be better thinking.”
Baye Ndongo led Georgia Tech in its loss to the Hokies with 16 points and nine rebounds. Miles Kelly leads the Yellow Jackets with 14.2 points per game this season.
It will be crucial for the Tar Heels to not overlook Georgia Tech, but a bigger game awaits them on Saturday. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Chapel Hill for what is expected to be a matchup of two teams in the Top 10 of the AP Top 25 Poll when the Tar Heels host their hated rivals, the Duke Blue Devils, at the Dean Smith Center.
–Field Level Media
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