Tar Heels vow not to look past winless (ACC) Georgia Tech
North Carolina on Wednesday night plays the only ACC team without a conference win when Georgia Tech comes to the Smith Center (9 p.m., ESPN), but Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said it won’t be hard to sell his team on how dangerous the Yellow Jackets (10-6, 0-4) can be.
“They were ahead of Duke at Duke at halftime, and Duke is one of the best teams in the country,” Williams said. “At times they’ve played better than anybody in the nation. So I think we can emphasize that to our guys, and hopefully (upperclassmen) Reggie (Bullock) and James Michael (McAdoo) and Dexter (Strickland) and those guys will be able to lead the young pups along a little bit.”
UNC may have righted the ship after losing its first two conference games, but the Tar Heels (12-5, 2-2 in the ACC) are far from good enough to take anyone lightly.
”If my Carolina team takes somebody for granted, we’re going to have a track meet for several days after that game,” Williams said.
In its two previous trips to the Triangle this season, Georgia Tech led Duke by 1 at halftime at Cameron Indoor Stadium and led N.C. State by 1 at halftime at PNC Arena before losing both games by double digits. The Yellow Jackets also lost to Virginia Tech in overtime.
“I believe we’re a much better team, but in this league you have to play extremely well for 40 minutes to be successful,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said.
Part of the problem has been inexperience. Georgia Tech’s top two scorers are freshman — forwards Marcus Georges-Hunt (10.7) and Robert Carter (9.9).
Freshman guard Chris Bolden also started the Duke game and scored 20 points, and the team had four freshmen on the court for significant parts of both halves against Duke when Solomon Poole replaced starting guard Mfon Udofia.
“Four or five possessions a game is the difference in wins and losses in this league, and we have to mature a little bit and understand that that’s how close games are going to be… young guys have to learn that,” Gregory said.
“They’re so accustomed to a possession here and there, who cares, we’ll get the ball back. With maturity, players’ games change and grow, and obviously maybe you don’t get the tangible evidence that what you’re doing is paying off, but that’s part of the process that we’re under right now. You don’t just do the work hard and everything works out perfect. You’ve got to keep fighting.”
UNC has also struggled to finish games this season, having let Virginia and Miami pull away down the stretch. But the Tar Heels finished strong against Florida State and then played a dominant first half against Maryland, going into halftime up 22 and cruising to a 10-point win.
“We’re a lot better now than two weeks ago when we were in the two game losing streak,” Williams said. “But you’re only as good as the next game, so we’ve got to be ready to play Wednesday night.”
UNC is 21-4 against Georgia Tech in the Smith Center, but had lost four straight overall in the series before beating the Yellow Jackets last season. Georgia Tech (8-7) and Duke (10-9) are the only two ACC teams with winning records against Williams-coached UNC teams.
2014 POINT GUARD JOEL BERRY COMMITS
Williams received a verbal commitment from one of the top junior point guards when Joel Berry, a point guard from Lake Highland (Fla.) Prep, announced he was going to UNC. He had attended the Maryland game at the Smith Center.
Berry was the first member of the Class of 2014 to commit to the Tar Heels. The 6-0, 185-pound guard is ranked third among point guards and 12th overall in his class by ESPN.
He was the first sophomore to be named Mr. Basketball in Florida after leading Lake Highland to its first state final.
“I feel honored and blessed to officially be a part of (UNC’s) tradition and excellence,” Berry wrote on Twitter.