Dec 2, 2001
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina got its first win of the season and it took a lot for the Tar Heels to avoid the worst start in their 92-year history.
The 83-77 victory over Georgia Tech on Sunday night featured a career night from a reserve, clutch play from three freshmen and an end to Jason Capel’s shooting slump.
The Tar Heels (1-3) avoided losing five straight home games for the first time in school history because Brian Morrison hit six 3-pointers while scoring a career-high 21 points and Capel added 18.
And they did it with freshmen Jawad Williams, Melvin Scott and Jackie Manuel on the court down the stretch.
“I thought about making some subs, but we hung with them and they made some huge plays,” said North Carolina coach Matt Doherty, whose team started 0-3 for the first time since 1928. “They grew up again.”
Georgia Tech (3-4) went on a 10-3 run for a 75-69 lead in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams, but Capel hit a 3-pointer – his first after 10 straight misses – and Scott banked in a 3 from the wing to tie it at 75 with 3:20 left.
Manuel hit two free throws to put North Carolina up 77-75, then Halston Lane tied it with a runner in the lane with 1:13 left.
Kris Lang and Scott each went 1-of-2 from the free throw line to put North Carolina up 79-77 with 18 seconds left. Manuel made it a four-point lead with a free throw after Williams tipped Scott’s miss to the top of the key.
Scott, who finished with 10 points, sealed it with a steal and three-point play with 5 seconds left.
Georgia Tech missed four of five shots down the stretch and scored two points in the final 4:54.
“We had good looks,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “Maybe there was one shot we could have been more aggressive on … but I thought our guys made aggressive plays down the stretch. The shots just didn’t fall.”
Morrison kept the Tar Heels within striking distance.
Georgia Tech opened the second half with a 13-4 run to take a 49-40 lead, but Morrison brought the Tar Heels back with three 3-pointers in a 2:11 span. Morrison’s third 3 – on a skip pass from Lang – pulled North Carolina to 66-65 with 8:30 left.
The 6-foot-2 Morrison also brought North Carolina’s fans to their feet when he dunked on 6-8 Robert Brooks for a three-point play that put the Tar Heels up 35-33 with 1:16 left – their first lead since 6-4.
Morrison, who had scored in double figures just twice before in his career, was 6-of-8 from 3-point range.
“Certainly Brian Morrison gave them a huge lift tonight,” Hewitt said. “He showed a lot of courage – stepping up and taking, and making, some big shots.”
Capel and Lang, the only North Carolina seniors who get significant playing time, also played important roles in the Tar Heels’ much-needed victory.
Capel, who shot 28 percent over the first three games, was 6-of-12 from the field and ended a 2-for-22 slump from 3-point range by going 1-of-4. He also had nine rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Lang, who had a career-high 27 points against Indiana on Wednesday, repeatedly screamed at teammates because he wasn’t getting the ball in the first half and took just one shot. The Tar Heels worked the ball to Lang more in the second half and he finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and three steals.
“Without those guys and their leadership, we wouldn’t have won this basketball game and have some hope,” Doherty said. “They could have easily pointed fingers or caved in, whatever you want to say. They not only stuck together, but they led us through this period.”
North Carolina, which entered the game shooting 35 percent, was 27-of-53 overall and shot 57 percent in the second half. The Tar Heels shot 23 percent from 3-point range in the first three games, but hit 11-of-22 against Georgia Tech.
North Carolina missed eight of 11 shots and had eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes, but then went 8-of-12 and had just two more turnovers to tie it at 36 at halftime.
Georgia Tech missed 22 of 35 shots in the first half, including an airball on an uncontested dunk attempt by Lane.
North Carolina has beaten Georgia Tech eight straight times and 12 of 13.