Virginia Tech had its largest lead, and Cassell Coliseum rocked. Erick Green had just made a 3-pointer, the Hokies’ ninth of this Thursday evening, and Tech led eighth-ranked North Carolina by eight points early in the second half.
Then the Tar Heels’ overwhelming talent took over. Offensively and defensively.
North Carolina 82, Virginia Tech 68. The Hokies’ most-lopsided defeat of the season and their fourth straight since a promising 11-3 start.
"I think we just got worn down," Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. "There are some very positive things to take out of it."
Such as a five-point halftime lead and making 8-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half.
But after Green’s 3-pointer early in the second period, Tech missed 15 consecutive shots, fueling a 31-5 run that gave Carolina a 67-49 lead.
That drought sentenced the Hokies to their fourth straight sub-40 percent shooting game. They finished at 36.8 percent.
"For us, I thought it was totally, totally, totally, our defense in the second half was just so much more active," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said.
Nine of Tech’s misses came on blocked shots, six by Henson, who also had 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Carolina outrebounded Tech 51-28, 28-9 after intermission.
"As a group I thought we forced some shots," Greenberg said, "and bad shots against them are like live-ball turnovers.”
Barnes scored a game-high 27 points, 21 in the second half. Green led Tech with 17 points. Dorenzo Hudson had 16, none in the second half.
Prior to tip, the Hokies (11-7, 0-4) honored fifth-year senior Hudson, who scored his 1,000th career point in Saturday’s loss at Boston College. But no sentiment on this night. For the first time this season, Greenberg did not start Hudson, opting instead for freshman Robert Smith.
Hudson responded just as Greenberg hoped. Entering the game at the first television timeout, Hudson energized his team and the crowd with four first-half 3-pointers and a transition bucket.
Tech was looking to escape its most prolonged, collective shooting slump in seven years. The Hokies shot below 40 percent against Wake Forest, Florida State and Boston College, the first time they’ve been below basketball’s Mendoza Line in three consecutive games since 2005.
The game’s timing was less than ideal for the Hokies, what with the Tar Heels (16-3, 3-1) enduring their worst ACC defeat in 49 years at Florida State on Saturday, 90-57. That head-scratcher all but assured an angry opponent.
An opponent, by the way, with more first-round NBA draft picks in its starting lineup (Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Henson for sure) than Tech has ever produced (Dell Curry in 1986 is the Hokies’ lone first-rounder).
Up next for Tech, a Sunday night game at 15th-ranked Virginia. The Cavaliers swept the Hokies last season, winning twice by a combined 10 points and contributing mightily to Tech missing the NCAA tournament.
The Hokies haven’t faced a ranked U.Va., team since December 2001, when the No. 9 Cavaliers won at University Hall 69-61.
Those are the basics. Time to transcribe interviews for further blog posts.
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