After a two-game slide to end the season, the Jackets bounced back and defeated UNC in the first round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., 62-58.
Tech beat UNC for the third time this season, the second time it has ever happened in school history. The only other occurrence was in 1985, when Tech won the ACC tournament for the first time ever. It is also the Jackets’ third straight victory over the Tar Heels in ACC Tournament play.
Freshman Derrick Favors had 18 points on seven-of-eight shooting. The power forward also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and accounted for five of Tech’s total eight blocks.
“I just took it upon myself for the team not to lose,” Favors said.
After jumping out to a 13-7 in the first half, Tech struggled and the Tar Heels went on a 17-0 run to solidify a double-digit lead. They led for the rest of the first half.
“I was disappointed in the first half [with the performance of the upperclassmen] but in the second half they played like seniors,” said Head Coach Paul Hewitt.
Despite UNC making only 13-of-36 of the team’s shot attempts, Tech could not capitalize due to several mistakes on the offense. The Jackets attempted 10 less shots, had 12 less bench points and gave up 10 more points in the paint than the Tar Heels. But the two main problems Tech has dealt with all season were apparent through the first half: turnovers and free throws. Tech turned the ball over nine times while UNC only committed four turnovers and Tech shot just four-of-nine from the charity stripe while UNC hit seven-of-10. The Jackets headed into the locker room trailing 34-24.
Still, they corrected several of the problem areas from the first half and saw the game tied shortly after half time.
Tech opened the period on a 7-0 run. The last two points were scored after sophomore guard Iman Shumpert caught an offensive rebound and threw a no-look behind-the-back pass to junior forward Gani Lawal for a dunk that prompted a UNC timeout.
“In the second half, we just hit the glass hard…we scrapped and fought for loose balls and came away with the win,” Lawal said.
The two teams eventually tied at 36 and traded baskets for the rest of the game.
With Tech trailing 47-43 a short time later, Favors made two straight three-point plays, jumping over two UNC defenders to get to the basket and get fouled on each play. Tied at 49, Tech was able to go on a 12-7 run that effectively ended the game and deal UNC its No. 16 loss.
Tech limited itself to just five turnovers in the second half while forcing UNC to commit six. They also made five-of-seven free throws.
The defense and inside presence of the Jackets helped force UNC to take several three-point shot attempts. The Tar Heels finished just two-of-16 from outside the arc.
Tech will next play Maryland tomorrow at 7 p.m. The Terrapins defeated the Jackets on a three-point buzzer beater on Feb. 20.
“…This [next game] is an important game for us. When we get back to the hotel we will start thinking and talking about Maryland,” Hewitt said.