Georgia Tech’s tour of Tobacco Road is, at the very least, over.
In some kind of sick schedule-makers ploy, the Yellow Jackets played three of their past four games in the Triangle area, at N.C. State, at Duke and on Wednesday night at North Carolina.
The Tar Heels were the only unranked team of the three, but the one that gave Tech some of its biggest problems in a 79-63 loss. The Yellow Jackets got beat in those critical periods before and after halftime and got rushed into 19 turnovers compared to only eight assists.
“I was proud of the way our guys kind of fought and competed, but their defense sped us up and we had a little bit of a lack of composure in some key times there,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said.
The Yellow Jackets (10-6 overall) are 0-5 in ACC play for the second time in five seasons. They need a win Saturday at home against Wake Forest to stop short of the 0-6 ACC start in 2008-2009.
Working in their favor, at least, is playing three of their next four games at McCamish Pavilion, but next up is the team that just knocked off No. 18 N.C. State Tuesday night.
“It’s not like it gets any easier,” Gregory said. “You don’t get any breathing time in this league. It’s an unforgiving league for young guys trying to grow up.”
The Yellow Jackets have played the top four teams in the ACC standings in the first five games of the schedule, including No. 25 Miami which just romped for-now No. 1 Duke in the early game Wednesday night.
“Georgia Tech – I feel for them,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “They’re really gotten better, and it’s just they’ve had a tough, tough opening part of the conference play. They’d had by far the most difficult schedule in the league. They are going to be a load for anybody as the second part of the season starts.”
Kammeon Holsey was Wednesday night’s bright spot for the Yellow Jackets, working hard for 18 points off the bench to match his season-high. It was the first time Holsey scored in double-digits since the ACC opener against Miami, and he had matched that total - 10 points – in the first half on Wednesday.
“That was a great sign for us because we need him,” Gregory said.
The Tar Heels had some bench pop of their own, with 15 points from P.J. Hairston. The North Carolina team (13-5, 3-2) that dropped its first two ACC games is starting to find its way. Reggie Bullock scored 17 points from the wing and power forward James Michael McAdoo added 14 points and nine rebounds.
The Tar Heels gave up 31 rebounds to Tech’s Robert Carter Jr. (12), Marcus Georges-Hunt (10) and Holsey (9) but also forced them into eight turnovers.
“You’re going to face adversity,” Holsey said. “You’ve got to keep on moving and keep on believing as a team.”
This Tech loss came minus the hot start the Yellow Jackets had at Duke, or the hanging tough they did until the final minutes at N.C. State. They struggled to keep pace with the Tar Heels in transition, couldn’t take consistent advantage inside and trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half.
Using back-to-back baskets from Holsey and two McAdoo fouls in 54 seconds, the Yellow Jackets cut Carolina’s lead back to single digits late in the first half. They were down only 36-32 after freshman Solomon Poole made a 3-pointer with 2:03 left in the first half.
But the Tar Heels picked up the pace, and in a span of 30 seconds, doubled their lead back to 40-32 on close-range shots by Bulloch and J.P. Tokoto. The Tar Heels followed with a 9-0 run in the first 2:50 of the second half, scoring all four field goals on lay-ups, to re-establish control of the game.
Carter Jr. was taking more shots from the perimeter than the paint. And the Tar Heels were keeping a close eye on Chris Bolden, who was limited to 10 points after scoring a career-high 20 points in his first collegiate start at Duke.
A week after a pair of unimpressive losses, Georgia Tech regained a bit of its footing. The Yellow Jackets delivered an emphatic 87-57 thrashing of East Tennessee State on Saturday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion to head into their final exam week on an up note.