Hokies have no answers for No. 9 UNC's rebounding, perimeter shooting in 91-72 loss

#Hokies jump out to early lead, but can't sustain it after UNC gets hot from the perimeter

For a fleeting moment Thursday, Virginia Tech appeared as if it was ready to run with No. 9 North Carolina. Just maybe this was the night Tech would step up and finally hang with the Tar Heels again.

Not exactly. Not this time. Not with UNC (19-3, 7-1 ACC) shooting and taking care of the ball better than it had against any ACC opponent this season.

After a slow start, UNC bounced back to cruise to a 91-72 win against Tech. Forward Justin Jackson scored 26 points to lead UNC, which made a season-high 14 shots from 3-point range while shooting 47 percent (14 of 30) from the perimeter — its best shooting performance from beyond the arc against an ACC opponent this season.

"I think they have a Hall of Fame coach [Roy Williams] and multiple McDonald's All-Americans," Tech coach Buzz Williams said. "That's just who they are."

UNC's successful 3-pointers were its most since Nov. 2012, when it had 15 against Mississippi State. UNC turned the ball over just six times against Tech, which was the Tar Heels' fewest against an ACC foe this season.

Tech, which has lost seven straight to UNC and 12 of its last 13 meetings against the Tar Heels, was paced by guard Seth Allen's 19 points in just his second start of the season.

Tech (15-5, 4-4) was impressive shooting the ball, connecting on 51 percent of its field goal attempts, but UNC made life hard for Tech by posting a 43-22 advantage in rebounding. UNC had 19 offensive rebounds (16 in the first half), while Tech had just four for the game.

"You've just got to fight as hard as you can to try to keep them off the glass," Tech forward Zach LeDay said. "It's just hard doing that. They've got so much length and height. It's just hard."

Guard Joel Berry and forward Kennedy Meeks each added 15 points for UNC, which shot 49 percent from the floor overall (61.3 percent in the second half) and had a 20-6 edge in second-chance points. Meeks also had 14 rebounds.

Guard Justin Robinson contributed 14 points and seven assists for Tech, while LeDay had 12 points.

Tech opened the evening looking poised to give UNC a fight, knocking down perimeter shots in the first 4 1/2 minutes while building a 13-7 lead. Tech made three of its first four shots from 3-point range.

It wouldn't last.

UNC, which is atop the ACC standings, outscored Tech 26-8 over the next 7 1/2 minutes to take a 33-21 advantage.

Jackson scored eight points during the stretch, while Berry added six points. Jackson, who led the Tar Heels in the first half with 13 points, and Berry each had a pair of 3-pointers to fuel the run.

After its hot start from beyond the 3-point arc to open the game, Tech connected on just one of its last nine 3-point shots in the first half, but shooting wasn't the Hokies' primary issue. Tech shot 50 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes, compared to UNC's 40.5 percent.

Tech tried to slow UNC down by incorporating a lot of zone defensive looks, but the Tar Heels were successful shooting over the top of the Hokies' zone. 

"They were just making 3's," Allen said. "That's kind of where we gave up. We were trying to just focus on offensive rebounds, and they killed us on the glass in the first half, and that's just how it was."

UNC bludgeoned Tech on the boards in the opening half, outrebounding the Hokies 26-10. UNC, which entered the game first in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-14.2 per game), grabbed 16 offensive rebounds in the first half, while Tech had just one offensive rebound.

Though it wasn't sharp shooting the ball before the break, UNC's tenacious offensive rebounding helped it build a 13-2 edge in second-chance points going into the half. UNC led by as many as 15 points before settling for a 44-33 lead at halftime.

Tech, which also surrendered 13 successful 3-pointers last Sunday in a win at Clemson, never cut UNC's lead under double digits in the final 24 1/2 minutes. UNC's cushion grew to as many as 26 points in the second half.

"I really like (Buzz Williams') team, and I really like what he does with his team," Roy Williams said. "It makes it difficult for our (power forward) as a post player to go out there and chase (LeDay) around, but at the same time, it helps us to have those guys in there for rebound purposes. Shoot 47 percent from (3-point range), and I think that always helps us."

Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette
66°