Roads were blocked, school was closed and ESPN cancelled their broadcast, but that didn’t stop Tech from taking on North Carolina Wednesday night. Due to wintry weather, many season ticket holders were not able to make it to the game, but a great showing from the Tech student body helped out. The student section was filled an hour before the game started, but no one was turned away.
The North Carolina basketball team also faced travel difficulties getting to Atlanta. However, the inconveniences of bad weather did not affect the Tar Heels as they pulled away in the second half, 78-65. The Jackets fell to 11-10 on the season and 2-6 in the ACC.
“In North Carolina you are starting to see the team that was 10-3 in the non-conference and had the number one strength of schedule. They beat Michigan State at Michigan State and Louisville and Kentucky. Those guys are starting to play really well,” said Tech Head Coach Brian Gregory. “I thought there were some things we did well today, but when you play a team like that you have to do a lot of things well.”
This was Tech’s first game since the overtime loss at NC State last weekend. Tech had one of their best rebounding performances of the year and looked to continue it against UNC, which ranks fourth nationally in rebounding. However, UNC was able to have their way on the interior and racked up 45 rebounds tonight.
Corey Heyward was given the starting nod and scored Tech’s second basket of the game. Daniel Miller had a monstrous dunk to tie the game at 10, but Leslie McDonald immediately answered with a 3 on the next possession to give UNC a 13-10 lead at the 12 minute mark. Miller pinned Brice Johnson’s lay up to the backboard and hit two fade away jump shots in a row to give Tech a 14-13 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Tech allowed UNC to get 10 early offensive rebounds which helped UNC go on 11-2 run to take a 24-15 lead. Tech was able to close the gap to 27-26 at halftime after Trae Golden was fouled at half-court attempting a three pointer. Tech shot 45.5% in the first half to UNC’s 31%. Miller led the team with 8 points on 4-5 shooting at the half and James McAdoo had 8 points for UNC.
Tar Heels’ James McAdoo and JP Tokoto picked up their fourth foul early in the second half, and Tech was down 36-34 after Trae Golden hit a 3 with 15 minutes remaining in game. The foul trouble was a non-factor for the Tar Heels as Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald began to heat up. Paige did not miss a shot and scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half. Tech struggled the entire half shooting the ball and continued missing one of every two free throws. Once UNC got a double digit lead, Tech was unable to cut it to less than seven. The Tar Heels scored 52 points in the second half and shot 66.7%. Tech finished the game shooting 42% from the floor, but missed 13 three pointers and 11 free throws. The trio of Miller, Georges-Hunt and Golden combined to score 50 of Tech’s 65 points.
Tech senior Jason Morris was injured in the first half and was unable to return. Tech is already down 3 scholarship players and they are hoping to get Robert Carter Jr. back before the season ends. Morris has struggled with foot injuries throughout his career at Tech. Morris has only been available for nine games this season and is averaging 2.2 points per game.
“Jason will have x-rays tomorrow,” Gregory said. “Poor kid can’t catch a break. He had two defensive rebounds in four minutes and he was dialed in pretty good, in terms of what we needed from him. One things he does is give us size at the perimeter and I’m hoping that it’s not bad, but we’ll review the x-rays tomorrow. Robert has been progressing and unfortunately because of all the snow, the doctor wasn’t able to get a look at him today. We’re hoping he gets to look at him tomorrow, and we will put him through in another workout tomorrow. The knee is responding pretty well up to this point and we’ll wait for the call from the doctor.”
Golden led the Jackets with 21 points and Daniel Miller had another big game with 12 points and five blocks.
“Daniel’s been great. You ask him to do so much. 12 points and again the rebounding total is skewed a little bit,” Gregory said. “But it’s hard right now because 35 minutes is a lot of minutes. We just have to find a way for him to survive right now.”
The Jackets fall to 11-10 on the year and 2-6 in ACC play. They travel to Winston-Salem on Saturday to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.