Jan. 29, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Wednesday was not the first time that the Yellow Jackets’ gave commendable effort in a loss, or even in a loss that on paper looked lopsided. Sometimes, there is just not enough manpower on hand.
Georgia Tech’s 78-65 loss to North Carolina was one of those occasions, and when adding the fact the Tar Heels are more talented than you might believe based on their record (13-7, 3-4 ACC), a double-digit loss results.
The Jackets (11-10, 2-6) trailed just 26-25 at halftime, but could hardly slow the Heels after that. Not even foul trouble for two UNC starters, James Michael McAdoo and JP Tokoto worked to Tech’s advantage.
Beyond the Jackets’ personnel shortages, the Heels have such depth that they can afford to have several players have off nights and still often win – especially when a point guard like Marcus Paige snaps to life in the second half as he did Wednesday.
The greatest bit about Wednesday’s loss in McCamish Pavilion was that even with all the weather and roadway conditions, a crowd of more than 5,100 was on hand and the student support may have been more impressive than for any game since the facility opened.
“First off, I want to thank all of the fans that did come out and in a way showed their true colors in terms of battling Mother Nature and getting here, especially the students walking from wherever they came from to get here,” said head coach Brian Gregory.
“But I really appreciate that as do our players; a big thank you to them.”
Trae Golden scored Tech’s final five points of the first half on the way to leading all scorers with 21, and the Jackets closed 10-2 to pull within a point by halftime.
When Tokoto and then McAdoo went out with their fourth fouls each, Tech pulled within 36-34 on a Golden 3-pointer, one of his four.
Problem was, the Heels have players galore and they ran some of them into the game.
Oh, and Paige woke up.
He scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half of the Tar Heels’ previous game, an 80-61 wipeout of Clemson.
Again Wednesday, he had just two points in the first half.
And 17 in the second.
“”It’s been weird,” said UNC coach Roy Williams. “We’ve played 20 games and I bet he’s had one half that’s much better than the other in 15 of those 20 games. I can’t explain it. If I could explain it, I’d make him sit on the bench in the bad half and play him the other half.”
After Golden’s trey pulled the Jackets to within two points, Paige curled around a high screen at the other end and hit a trey of his own.
He scored 11 of the Heels’ next 22 points, and in the process UNC’s offensive efficiency went through the roof.
After scoring 26 first-half points on 12-for-39 shooting (31 percent), North Carolina scored 52 in the second half on 16-for-24 shooting (67 percent).
What was different?
“I wish I knew; we would have figured it out,” Golden said. “I think we gave Paige a couple open looks, and once you do that with a good player he gets him going so he got in a rhythm.”
The Jackets battled, but with the ongoing absence of power forward Robert Carter Jr., their leading rebounder, Tech was soundly beaten again on the boards (45-33) and the Heels’ size began to weigh more and more.
It didn’t help that other than Golden going 4-for-9 on 3-pointers, the Jackets were 0-for-9. Several of those were “good looks.”
“I think they wore us down a little bit at times,” Gregory said. “We weren’t as good defensively in the second half. We made some key mistakes, some coverage mistakes.
“Our margin of error is small. Even if only one of those mistakes results in two points, if you add up four or five of those mistakes that’s 10 points and that’s what happened in the second half.”
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