The North Carolina Tar Heels knew they would get the very best from the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg, Va. and despite the offense muddling against a zone early, coach Roy Williams‘ group prevailed 60-56 on Saturday.
North Carolina could not get into an offensive flow because Tech came out with a 2-3 zone that extended beyond the perimeter and condensed quickly in the post. The defense worked at first because North Carolina tried to hard to beat it with just shooting. The Tar Heels fell behind midway through the first half, but a slight change on offense opened up the flow.
Carolina began going to the high post and passed out to the perimeter or down low to cutters. The initial sign that this worked was when James Michael McAdoo received the ball near the foul line and quickly distributed it out to Marcus Paige for an open 3-pointer. The change immediately gave the Tar Heels confidence on offense and it showed on defense. Carolina forced three Tech turnovers on the ensuing possessions. McAdoo, Nate Britt and J.P. Tokoto each scored on fast-break layups and the Tar Heels began to roll.
North Carolina closed the first half on a 13-5 run. Tech only made two of its final 11 shots in the half. Carolina’s change on offense definitely affected Tech on both sides of the ball. The Hokies were able to hang around for most of the game, but the Tar Heels stayed true to their game. It was not an impressive victory by the numbers, but North Carolina beat a team that slowed down the game.
North Carolina is doing something any solid championship contender has to do at this time of the season by taking the very best from a lower-tier team, not losing confidence even if things do not work early, figuring out what to do and responding.
The biggest difference between the Tar Heels now and the team that started 1-4 in the ACC is how quickly the team makes in-game changes instead of getting down when something isn’t working. The Tar Heels have become a potent team on both sides of the ball, and the victory over the Hokies again displayed how much can change for a team in a month.
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