Tar Heels Take Down GT in First Round of ACC’s

Stephanie Mavunga led the Tar Heels to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament Thursday night with a game-high 23 points over Georgia Tech in an 84-64 win in Greensboro. Carolina is a No. 6 seed in the tournament and is lifted to a 24-7 overall record.

Mavunga also finished the night with 16 rebounds and 8 blocks. She said she felt tonight was one of the best night’s to make a statement.

Stephanie Mavunga gets double-teamed often.

Stephanie Mavunga gets double-teamed often.

“I really had to step up big,” Mavunga said. “Especially after having such a bad game last game at Duke, I felt like I had let my team down and needed to step up tonight.”

Just before halftime, UNC thought it would take a break with a 13-point lead, until Tech guard Antonia Peresson shot an impressive half court shot at the buzzer to bring them behind the Heels 37-27.

Carolina went through a short scare at the beginning of the second half when Allisha Gray went down hard on the court with an apparent right ankle injury.

“During the game when Allisha got knocked down, I didn’t like that,” Mavunga said. “And seeing her like that made me furious, it ticked me off and actually motivated me.”

When Gray checked back in after a quick trip to the locker room, UNC found their sync and took over on the court in the final minutes – never letting Georgia Tech get back in within seven points.

Jamie Cherry played well at point in limited minutes.

Jamie Cherry played well at point in limited minutes.

Coming behind Mavunga in scoring was Gray with 14 points and three assists alongside Latifah Coleman with 10 points on 40 percent three-point shooting.

UNC shot 50 percent from the floor and scored 21 points off of the Yellow Jackets’ 18 turnovers.

Georgia Tech was led by Kaela (KAY-luh) Davis and Zaire (Z-eye-AIR) O’Neil with 14 points apiece while Aaliyah Whiteside added 13.

On Friday, UNC will meet Louisville as they make their ACC Tournament debut. The Tar Heels are hoping to redeem themselves from the 75-66 loss at Louisville in February.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-take-down-gt-in-first-round-of-accs/

Carolina Heads To ‘Hotlanta’ To Face Georgia Tech

The No. 19 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 20-9 overall and 10-6 in ACC play, travels to Atlanta Tuesday night for a rematch with Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets, 12-17 overall with a 3-14 mark in the league, will be hoping to sting the Tar Heels and knock them out of a potential No. 4 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.

***Listen to the story***

UNC’s final road game of the season figures to be a manageable one. After all, lowly Georgia Tech has lost three in a row and Carolina absolutely clobbered the Ramblin’ Wreck earlier this season in Chapel Hill, 89-60, in the famous ‘Four Corners’ game.

When JP Tokoto's game elevates, so do the Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

When JP Tokoto’s game elevates, so do the Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

The Tar Heels will hope to embark on another runaway. After all, they’ve struggled to close out the tight games.

But UNC junior guard Marcus Paige says Saturday’s road win at Miami helped restore his team’s late-game confidence.

“It feels good. We’ve had a lot of close battles that unfortunately, one or two things happen and we lose. This time, we were able to make a couple corrections and make enough winning plays to make a difference. It feels good to be in a close game and actually come out on top,” Paige says.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says the 15 turnovers in south Florida were worrisome, but he liked the aggressive activity of junior forward J.P. Tokoto.

“I wish we’d leave out the turnovers. We don’t need to fill out that stat. I thought he had a couple big-time rebounds where it was, ‘who is going to get it?’ And it was J.P. who came up and got it. He’s got to go to the board and rebound for us. He’s done a much better job of it,” Coach Williams says.

As for the foul trouble, too many whistles have been blown for Coach Williams’ liking.

“We do want to try to get fouled. We’re leading the country in mind in number of times we reach in and make silly fouls,” Coach Williams says.

Coach Williams says he doesn’t expect freshman Theo Pinson to return to the lineup Tuesday night, but he dressed out last weekend and appears to be getting his health back. That’s good news for Tar Heel fans.

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory, for one, is pretty high on Carolina.

“They’re as good as anybody around. Coach [Williams] knows that. The players know that. I think they’re, hopefully it will be after our game, they’re going to have a heck of a run,” Coach Gregory says.

Freshman guard Joel Berry came up with a clutch three-pointer over the weekend, but he credits the overall buy-in and effort from his teammates for getting the ‘W’.

Roy Williams animated on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams animated on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

“I think we played with a lot of energy, a lot of effort. We came out really slow against N.C. State and couldn’t get our momentum back. Today [vs. GT], we started off with great momentum. We just played together and a lot of effort,” Berry says.

If there’s one thing Georgia Tech can do, it’s rebound. Coach Gregory’s team is hauling in 38 per game. The offensive output, on the other end, is another story.

UNC leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 65-24. In fact, the Jackets haven’t beaten the Heels since 2011.

But McCamish Pavilon has historically been a tough venue in the ACC, and with UNC’s sights firmly set on snagging a double bye in next week’s conference tournament, a slip-up is not an option.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-heads-to-hotlanta-to-face-georgia-tech/

Carolina Honors Coach Smith With Emphatic Victory

A moment of silence. 1980’s throwback jerseys. The Four-Corners offense run to perfection. Soaring slams. Pulsating roars.

No, this wasn’t 1982, but if you closed your eyes, it could have been. Needless to say, it was Carolina’s day inside the Dean E. Smith Center.

***Listen to the story***

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team sped away from Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, securing a comfortable 89 -60 win to improve to 19-8 overall and 9-5 in ACC action.

It was a celebratory mood inside the Smith Center Saturday (Todd Melet)

It was a celebratory mood inside the Smith Center Saturday (Todd Melet)

With the loss, the Yellow Jackets dropped to 12-15 on the season with a 3-12 mark in league play.

The Chapel Hill community will officially memorialize the late Dean Smith Sunday inside the showpiece that dons his name, but it’s Saturday’s dominant performance from his beloved Tar Heels that will probably make Coach Smith happiest.

Six UNC players finished in double figures in scoring with sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks leading the charge with 18 points to go along with six rebounds. The unselfish effort and tight teamwork would no doubt make Coach Smith smile.

Many observers were wondering how Carolina would respond from the disappointment at Duke Wednesday. Those folks received an emphatic answer.

Four corners! (UNC Athletics)

Four corners! (UNC Athletics)

“Okay, needless to say it was a great day for us.  Shoot 63 percent for the game and only have eight turnovers, it was a good bounce back from a very disappointing game Wednesday night.  We felt, like I said at the press conference Wednesday night, I thought we did some good things over there, but Duke made better plays down the stretch.  People were worried about the carry-over.  I wasn’t worried about that,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

Georgia Tech junior forward Marcus Georges-Hunt tallied a team-leading 15 points, but the Jackets only managed to shoot 38 percent from the floor as a team, struggling to deal with UNC’s defensive aggression, especially early in the second half.

A potential Four Corners tribute to Coach Smith was something Coach Williams says he’s been pondering for weeks now, due to UNC’s extended road trip.

Paige battles for the ball with Yellow Jackets flanking him (Todd Melet)

Paige battles for the ball with Yellow Jackets flanking him (Todd Melet)

“It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, for two weeks anyway.  Some way to do something that would mean a great deal to him and would mean a great deal to me.  I thought that worked out great,” Coach Williams says.

Roy Williams was emotional for Coach Smith and his Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams was emotional for Coach Smith and his Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

Fittingly, the four corners play proved successful. Before the score, Coach Williams held up four fingers that served as a lasting memory for those in attendance.

In total, the first half shooting percentage of 61.3 percent was UNC’s second best field goal percentage of the season – a half against William & Mary the only 20 minutes better.

Out of the halftime locker room, the Tar Heels took over. An electrifying J.P. Tokoto aerial assault followed by a pretty Marcus Paige three-pointer gave UNC a 60-32 advantage with 15:15 to play in the contest. The game was essentially over.

Tokoto, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, says Saturday’s win was absolutely necessary.

“You don’t want to lose a fifth, especially at home to anybody, not just Georgia Tech even if it was Duke, we would have came out with the same energy. We have to take this and keep moving forward. We are out of a drought now, but we could drop the next game very easily if we don’t come out to play,” Tokoto says.

Next up for Carolina comes round two of its rivalry matchup with N.C. State. The Tar Heels and Wolfpack will square off Tuesday night at 8 p.m. back in the Smith Center.

***Click here for full game photo gallery***

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-honors-coach-smith-emphatic-victory/

Scouting Report: Georgia Tech Coach Brian Gregory

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to chat with Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory ahead of his team’s matchup with the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

The pair discussed Coach Gregory’s time spent coaching with Tom Izzo at Michigan State, the competitiveness of the ACC and his Yellow Jackets’ chances at pulling off an upset in the Smith Center Saturday.

***Listen to the interview***

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/scouting-report-georgia-tech-coach-brian-gregory/

In Wake of Duke Defeat, Carolina Hosts Georgia Tech

The No. 15 Tar Heels haven’t played all that poorly the past two contests at Pittsburgh and at Duke, but they lost both contests. A return home to the comfy confines of the Smith Center to take on struggling Georgia Tech could provide the perfect remedy for a UNC squad in desperate need of victory.

***Listen to the story***

“Guys, I know the outcome. You can’t just say besides the outcome because you know the outcome. They played better than we did today. We’ll get another chance, and maybe we’ll play better that day. It’s a long, long marathon. It’s a marathon in this league, and you’re running up hill all the time,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

Brice Johnson stepped up before fouling out against Duke (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson stepped up before fouling out against Duke (Todd Melet)

Carolina’s ACC ‘marathon’ will continue this weekend.

Sitting at 18-8 on the season with an 8-5 mark in ACC play, the Tar Heels still remain in the hunt for a No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament.

But losing four of the last five contests makes it harder to feel too optimistic. The true mettle of this Carolina club will no doubt be tested coming down the home stretch.

Lost in the shuffle of another classic Carolina-Duke matchup at Cameron was junior forward Brice Johnson fouling out of the contest late in the second half.

Johnson was playing well, especially on the boards. Without Johnson on the floor, the Tar Heels struggled to come up with the critical rebounds needed to put away their rivals.

Coach Williams says UNC needs to cut out the careless fouls.

“It hurt us, but it wasn’t a major part of the game. I don’t want anybody fouling out. We got to stop making the silly fouls. If he [Johnson] had stopped making the silly fouls, perhaps we’d be in the game,” Coach Williams says.

Despite the bitter end to the night at Cameron, there were flashes of brilliance from a lock-down UNC defense and thunderous finishes by the mercurial J.P. Tokoto.

Coach Williams will hope the individual performances Wednesday evening translate into a more collective, consistent Carolina going forward.

J.P. Tokoto's play has electrified crowds...at times. (Photo by Todd Melet.)

J.P. Tokoto’s play has electrified crowds…at times. (Photo by Todd Melet.)

“J.P. [Tokoto] has been struggling recently, but he had 15 points, seven assists, zero turnovers and eight rebounds [in the game]. I think several guys did some good things,” Coach Williams says.

UNC’s opponent Saturday, Georgia Tech, won’t be feeling sorry for the reeling the Tar Heels. The Yellow Jackets are a capable squad, coming off a 63-52 win against the Clemson Tigers.

The high noon tipoff in Chapel Hill will be the first home action on the hardwood since the passing of legendary UNC coach Dean Smith earlier this month. Emotions are sure to be riding high.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/wake-duke-defeat-carolina-hosts-georgia-tech/

Tar Heels Thwart Yellow Jackets 48-43

The North Carolina football team used T.J. Logan’s game-winning touchdown dive with 11 seconds to play to get past Georgia Tech 48-43 in Kenan Stadium Saturday night and improve to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the ACC.

With the loss, the Yellow Jackets dropped to 5-2 on the season and 2-2 in conference play.

***Listen to the story***

Quarterback Marquise Williams completed 38 of 47 pass attempts for 390 yards and four touchdowns. At one point in the second half, Williams completed 14 consecutive attempts, one shy of the school record.

“We just had to play with confidence as an offense,” Williams says. “We told the defense as soon as they came off, we said, `We got your back.'”

Williams set the UNC record for completions in a game with 38 (previous was 33 by T.J. Yates vs. NC State in 2010). He also set the UNC record for completions in consecutive games with 62. The previous record was 61 by Yates in 2010.

“All night (Marquise) did a really nice job of taking the ball where it was supposed to go,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says. “He didn’t force it, and he checked down when we needed to. That’s why we moved the chains the way we did.”

The Yellow Jackets struck first with a Zach Laskey 3-yard touchdown to go up 7-0 with 5:47 to go in the first quarter.

The Tar Heels answered right back when Williams threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Bug Howard to tie the contest at 7-7 with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter. Georgia Tech responded with a 27-yard field goal by Harrison Butker to snag back the lead at 10-7 with 10:47 left in the half.

A Williams to Ryan Switzer 68-yard touchdown pass pushed UNC ahead 14-10 with 9:13 to go in the second quarter.

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Following some solid defensive effort, the Tar Heels struck again. This time, it was much the same. Williams used his legs to get down the field and then polished the scoring drive off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Switzer to give UNC a 21-10 advantage with 2:51 left in the second quarter.

The Yellow Jackets didn’t waste any time responding. QB Justin Thomas slung a 12-yard touchdown strike to Tony Zenon to close the gap to 21-17 with 1:25 to play in the half.

To open the second half, Georgia Tech took advantage of their first possession and reclaimed the lead at 24-21 thanks to a 65-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Darren Walker with 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Carolina answered right back with a scoring drive that was capped off by a 13-yard touchdown run by Williams to push the Tar Heels into the lead at 28-24 with 8:13 on the third quarter clock.

The Tar Heels widened the gap yet again with another impressive drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown dive by running back Romar Morris that gave UNC the 35-24 lead with 2:36 to play in the third quarter.

Justin Thomas rallied the Jackets back into contention with a 46-yard scoring pass to Deandre Smelter to close the margin down to 35-31 with 14:50 left in the game.

The key play of the game came on a 4th and 6 at the GT 36-yard line. UNC’s Coach Fedora elected to go for it. It paid off. Williams hooked up with Mack Hollins for a 36-yard touchdown pass to give the home team a 42-31 cushion with 12:34 left to play.

Rameses watches on (Elliott Rubin)

Rameses watches on (Elliott Rubin)

The Yellow Jackets responded with a 14-yard touchdown dash by Zach Laskey. But a huge tackle by UNC defender Des Lawrence put a stop to Georgia Tech’s two-point conversion effort. The Tar Heels held a 42-37 advantage with 8 minutes left in the contest.

A 75-yard reverse by Smelter went to the end zone for a touchdown and gave Georgia Tech a 43-42 edge with 3:07 to play.

On the next possession, UNC bounced back strongly.  Logan took the ball in the end zone for the game-winner with a two-yard scoring dive to earn the Tar Heels the 48-43 win.

Georgia Tech had one final possession deep in its own end, but Thomas’ desperation deep heave fell incomplete and receiver Michael Summers dropped Thomas’ short pass.

Next up for UNC comes a trip up to Charlottesville next Saturday to take on the 4-3 Virginia Cavaliers in another critical ACC Coastal matchup.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-12/

Tar Heels Look To Avoid Habitual Yellow Jacket Sting

The 2-4 North Carolina football team will welcome 5-1 Georgia Tech to Chapel Hill this weekend for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday under the lights at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels will be searching for their first ACC win of the season.

***Listen to the story***

Saturday’s game is a classic contrast in styles. It’s the jumpy, up-tempo UNC offense up against the deliberate, ‘lull you to sleep’ triple-option assault of Georgia Tech.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says there’s pressure to score on every possession against the Yellow Jackets’ style of play that eats up so much clock.

“Georgia Tech does a tremendous job of possessing the ball. They stay ahead of the chains so they’re not in long-yardage situations on third down. They can still get to their entire offense, which is the triple option. Offensively, you go from averaging 14-15 possessions in a game to 9-10,” Coach Fedora says.

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Coach Fedora says the Tar Heels have been preparing a little differently in practice this week – without a football.

“We don’t use a ball when we’re running the triple option. That way, the defense doesn’t know who has the ball because there is no ball. On every play, somebody should be wrapping the fullback up, somebody should have the quarterback and somebody should have the pitch. If they’re not, something is wrong,” Coach Fedora says.

UNC senior defensive tackle Ethan Farmer says gap assignments are a priority against the triple option.

“You’re going to have to fit your gap and do your job. You can’t really worry about the guy next to you; just know that he’s going to be able to do his job. Everybody on this defense has a job to do. If we do our job, we’ll be fine on Saturday,” Farmer says.

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is worried about the dual-threat ability of Carolina junior quarterback Marquise Williams. Williams is one of only eight players in the country leading his team in both passing yards and rushing yards.

Coach Johnson says the Yellow Jacket defense will try to keep Williams constrained inside the pocket.

“You have to be mindful of your rush lanes. Where he really kills you is adlibbing. You have to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket and not letting him kill you on scramble plays,” Coach Johnson says.

A win this weekend would provide a huge confidence boost to the Tar Heels for multiple reasons.

First, UNC needs to put a stop to the immediate bleeding – a four-game losing streak. But perhaps more importantly, the Tar Heels must exorcise their triple option demons.

GT QB Justin Thomas (Sportsonearth.com)

GT QB Justin Thomas (Sportsonearth.com)

UNC has succumbed to Georgia Tech on five straight occasions and dropped 14 of the last 16 contests between the schools. In order to harbor any realistic hopes of winning the ACC Coastal this year and what’s more, in any future seasons, the Tar Heels must prove they can find a way past the Yellow Jackets.

Coach Fedora senses that urgency and says the Tar Heels will need to quickly adapt to the speed at which Georgia Tech runs the triple option. But the problem is he also says it’s impossible to adequately simulate Coach Johnson’s offense with a scout team.

“There’s no way you’re going to show them the speed of the game with the triple option in practice. We don’t run it. You’re not going to get a scout team to run the triple option as quickly and efficiently as they do. It takes some time at the beginning of the game to get acclimated to the speed of it. Hopefully, it doesn’t take too long. You’re only going to have so many possessions,” Coach Fedora says.

A quick start is always important, but against the ball-control running of Georgia Tech, it’s even more vital. An early first half lead reminiscent of the 14-0 margin opened up by the Tar Heels a week ago at Notre Dame, could completely change the complexion of the game Saturday night.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-look-avoid-habitual-yellow-jacket-sting/

Scouting Report: A Chat With GT Coach Paul Johnson

WCHL’s Matt Oakes caught up with Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket head coach Paul Johnson to discuss the state of GT football, the parity in the ACC, the triple-option offense and his matchup with the Tar Heels this weekend in Chapel Hill.

***Listen to the conversation***

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/scouting-report-chat-gt-coach-paul-johnson/

UNC Football Turning the Corner À La 2013?

UNC football head coach Larry Fedora is comparing the Tar Heels’ tough 50-43 loss at Notre Dame on Saturday to last season’s 27-23 defeat to Miami in Chapel Hill.

The parallels are plentiful, but will UNC back it up with another dramatic turnaround?

***Listen to the story***

“There were many bright spots. There were some things that we were able to take from this game [at Notre Dame] and hopefully, we’ll be able to grow on and be a better football team because of it,” Coach Fedora says.

The energy was up. The Tar Heel defenders were flying to the ball and playing with aggression. Marquise Williams and the offense were clicking on all cylinders.

Was Saturday the beginning of a transformation reminiscent of the Miami game on Zero Dark Thursday in Kenan Stadium a year ago?

The similarities are eerie.

Both games were played in mid-October. UNC was largely written off heading into both contests, following sluggish starts to the seasons. The Tar Heels were facing an undefeated and top-ten team on both occasions. And to top it all off, the underdog Tar Heels carried a surprising lead into the fourth quarter only to suffer a painful loss both years.

In 2013, following the Miami defeat, UNC stood at 1-5. But the Tar Heels were a new team afterwards, rallying to win six of their next seven games to finish with a 7-6 record and a Belk Bowl victory.

The precedent is there, but can UNC find that detour road map and navigate through to a bowl game yet again?

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Coach Fedora is confident that if Carolina is able to clean up its own act, the Tar Heels can match up competitively with anyone.

“I think our football team came out of that understanding that if we take care of ourselves, we can play with anybody. But again, for us, it’s about ‘us’. Every team that’s defeated us, you give them the credit, and they’ve done a great job. But we just have to take care of us. If we take care of ‘us’, we give ourselves a chance to win against anybody,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora is hoping his Tar Heels can draw inspiration from what they were able to accomplish post-Miami in 2013 and apply it to 2014.

“I would say this Notre Dame game was a lot like Miami last year. We learned a lot of lessons in that game and started playing much better. Hopefully, we’ll do the same thing this year,” Coach Fedora says.

If the 2-4 Tar Heels are to embark on a similar recovery effort this season, they’ll have to start the process by overcoming the triple-option attack of Georgia Tech.

Coach Fedora says there is no good way to replicate what Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson does with his offense with a scout team in practice.

But Coach Fedora says the team is looking forward to returning home and taking on the Yellow Jackets.

Yellow Jacket offense (Joe Hamilton)

Yellow Jacket offense (Joe Hamilton)

“We’re excited about coming home and playing in front of our home fans again. We’re taking on a very good Georgia Tech team that totally makes you stop what you’re doing on defense and change to prepare for the triple-option attack,” Coach Fedora says.

It will be a tough hurdle to clear Saturday. UNC has dropped 14 out of its last 16 matchups with Georgia Tech, including losses in the last five meetings.

But maybe a narrow miss against a top-10 opponent will again prove to be the necessary fodder for another successful Tar Heel turnaround.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-football-turning-corner-la-2013/

Georgia Tech Stymies Carolina, Claims 2-1 Series Win

The No. 12 North Carolina baseball team dropped an ACC series to Georgia Tech 2-1 over the weekend to fall to 15-8 on the season and 5-4 in ACC play.

With the series victory, the Yellow Jackets improved to 15-9 on the year and 5-4 in conference action.

The Tar Heels survived an extra innings marathon Friday night with Trent Thornton on the mound to claim a 1-0 lead in the three-game set.

But Saturday’s doubleheader went the way of Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets edged the Tar Heels in a second straight extra innings contest before routing Carolina 9-1 in the nightcap to claim the series.

Freshman pitcher Zac Gallen struggled, giving up six runs to the Yellow Jacket lineup as the Tar Heel offense failed to produce any sort of offensive help of their own.

Next up for Carolina is a Wednesday meeting with Winthrop. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/georgia-tech-stymies-carolina-claims-2-1-series-win/