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Ken Sugiura

6 takeaways from Tech-UNC

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Thoughts and observations from Georgia Tech’s 78-65 loss to North Carolina Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion. Game story here. Myajc.com game story here. (For a limited time, myajc.com stories are being offered free of charge as a courtesy to readers.)

1. There wasn’t a lot of mystery Wednesday. North Carolina has a better, deeper team than Georgia Tech and it was readily evident.

North Carolina has six players on the roster who were either McDonald’s All-Americans or who have played on a U.S. national team. Tech has none of either.

“I think their three’s, four’s and five’s, I think they’re pretty athletic,” guard Trae Golden said, referring to the Tar Heels’ small and power forwards and centers. “Usually, you don’t have three guys that athletic. Usually, you have one that’s maybe a little slow-footed, but they’ve got guys coming off the bench that’s athletic, can run the floor, get putbacks, second-chance points. That’s tough.”

2. UNC point guard Marcus Paige was on his game in the second half. After missing both field-goal attempts in the first half, he was 6-for-6 thereafter, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range. He finished with seven assists and no turnovers. After Golden hit a 3-pointer to draw the Jackets to within two points, Paige answered with his own 3-pointer to start a 7-0 run. Tech was never closer than six points the rest of the night.

“When he plays well, they’re an elite-level team, there’s no question about it,” coach Brian Gregory said.

As a team, UNC shot 16-for-24 in the second half. My colleague Matt Winkeljohn had an interesting perspective on the numbers. The Tar Heels scored 52 points in the second half, twice as many as the first half, despite taking only 24 shots after taking 39 in the first. The big difference was 20 free throws in the second (making 16) compared to three in the first.

“I think they wore us down a little bit at times, especially interior,” Gregory said. “We weren’t as good defensively in the second half. We made some key mistakes, some coverage mistakes, some things that happened.”

3. Tech got another strong performance from center Daniel Miller, particularly on the defensive end. He had five blocks – four in the first half – and altered many more shots. UNC coach Roy Williams referred to him as a “load inside” and credited his shot-blocking ability for causing the Tar Heels’ big men to rush their shots, particularly in the first half.

Miller played 35 minutes and he wasn’t nearly as productive in the second half as the first.

“Thirty-five minutes is a lot of minutes,” Gregory said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to have him survive right now.”

4. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt had his second consecutive game with 10 free throws. He had 62 in the first 19 games. Georges-Hunt has been struggling to score – as has the team in general – and the line, obviously, is a place where he can get more points. Gregory said on his radio show Monday that Georges-Hunt has been getting a lot of defensive attention and also often been tasked with defending the opponent’s best player, part of the reason his sophomore season has been tough.

“I just think I’m more aggressive,” he said. “Coach wants me to be more aggressive and that’s what I’m doing.”

5. Gregory opened his post-game comments by thanking fans who made it to the game. Attendance was 5,124, about 60 percent of capacity.

“I really appreciate that, as do our players,” Gregory said. “Big thank you to them. That was tremendous.”

The student turnout was about 2,300, more than twice the typical attendance, a combination of North Carolina playing and classes being canceled Thursday.

6. As noted in the game story, forward Jason Morris left the game with a right foot injury. He was scheduled for an x-ray Thursday. He missed several games at the start of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot. Tough break. Coaches were expecting him to have a big year based off his summer workouts, and has been either hurt or limited for just about all of it.

As Gregory put it, “poor kid can’t catch a break.”

If you’re wondering, a medical redshirt is not an option. While Morris may end up playing less than 30 percent of Tech’s games – he has played nine and 30 percent is 9.3 – the injury must take place in the first half of the season and be incapacitating for the remainder of the season.

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