Tar Heels Complete Largest Comeback In School History, Beat GT 38-31

With four minutes remaining in the first half, the UNC football team had just let Georgia Tech run the ball down the field for its third touchdown of the game on its third drive of the game.

Down 21-0 at that time, all hope looked lost for Head Coach Larry Fedora and his team.

But the Tar Heels stayed resilient, fighting all the way back to defeat the Yellow Jackets 38-31 on Saturday–the biggest comeback in team history, and its first win in Atlanta since 1997.

UNC wins its fourth consecutive game and moves to 4-1 on the year, opening ACC play 1-0 for the first time in Fedora’s four-year tenure. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, have now dropped three straight contests, and fall to 2-3 with an 0-2 record inside the conference.

“Just a lot of guts from this team,” Fedora said about the comeback. “In all three phases. Just a tremendous team effort.”

After questions about a possible quarterback controversy dominated the headlines in Chapel Hill this week, senior Marquise Williams was electric against Georgia Tech.

Marquise Williams carries the football. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

Marquise Williams carries the football. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

He was efficient throwing the ball, going 13-for-24 for 134 yards–but it was with his legs that he did the most damage. Fifteen times he carried the rock himself, tallying 148 yards and two touchdowns on the ground–not to mention hauling in a receiving touchdown that swung all the momentum over to the boys in light blue.

“I told the guys, ‘When it’s ACC play, that’s when I’m ready to go,'” Williams said after the game. “It shouldn’t be like that way, but when it’s conference time, that’s when I’m ready to go get it.

“This is our chance right now,” he continued. “And I’m seizing that opportunity to do something different around here”

Oddly enough, it was a wide receiver–senior Quinshad Davis–who threw the game’s most important pass. Trailing 28-24 in the fourth quarter, Davis took a hand-off on what looked like a reverse play. However, Williams slipped downfield and Davis threw him a 37-yard bomb that gave UNC its first lead of the day.

“I was looking, and I was like ‘This ball is in the air too long,'” Williams said about the crucial catch. “I said, ‘If I drop this, I am not allowed to go back to Chapel Hill.'”

Sophomore tailback Elijah Hood also contributed a pair of rushing touchdowns on 12 carries, racking up 60 yards in the process.

Jeff Schoettmer chases down the ball carrier. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

Jeff Schoettmer chases down the ball carrier. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

Georgia Tech was led by quarterback Justin Thomas and fullback Patrick Skov, each of whom ran the ball for 56 yards. Early in the game Skov was unstoppable on runs up the middle, consistently churning out first downs that kept the Tar Heel offense off the field.

Thomas completed 12 of his 21 passes for 162 yards–throwing one touchdown and an interception on the game’s final play.

The first sign of a potential comeback was at the end of the second quarter when Williams led the Tar Heels on a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just over three minutes.  After forcing Tech to punt, UNC got 56 seconds to try and add another to their tally before the break.

They would do just that–as Williams drove the team 37 yards before running it in from seven yards out–cutting the halftime deficit to just 21-14.

A 37-yard field goal from Nick Weiler on the first possession of the third quarter brought the Tar Heels to within four points, but the Yellow Jackets responded with a touchdown drive of their own.

Thomas found freshman Mikell Lands-Davis for a 19-yard score, bringing the lead back to double digits.

A subsequent Hood touchdown brought UNC back within four, but the Yellow Jackets seemed intent on closing this one out.

Reaching the Tar Heels’ 1-yard-line on 3rd-and-goal, it seemed like another score would be a formality. But the defense held strong, stuffing Thomas on 4th down to keep the dream alive.

UNC punted on its next drive, handing the ball right back to Georgia Tech. Then, defensive lineman Junior Gnonkonde forced a fumble, which was recovered by the Tar Heels at the Tech 37-yard line.

“When you get down 21 points you tend to worry about ‘Do we need to score every series?'” Fedora said. “And I thought [offensive coordinator] Seth [Littrell] did a really good job just continuing to do what we do. And the kids responded really well.”

What happened next will go down in history, as Davis found Williams for the game’s signature moment–giving the visiting team its first lead of the afternoon.

Quinshad Davis and Robert Dinkins. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

Quinshad Davis and Robert Dinkins. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

A 27-yard rushing touchdown by Williams on the next drive extended the lead to 10, and just about sealed it up.

The Yellow Jackets kicked a field goal with 2:46 to play, but were not able to muster anything else–giving Fedora perhaps the most important win he’s had during his time in Chapel Hill.

Up Next:

UNC has its bye week next week, taking to time to rest and prepare for its next contest–an October 17th home game against in-state rival Wake Forest.

Game Notes:

  • Georgia Tech became the fourth team in five games to run for over 200 yards against a porous UNC run defense that came into Saturday allowing 229 yards per game on the ground.
  • Time of possession was dominated by the Yellow Jackets, who held the ball for 38:45 (compared to the Tar Heels’ 21:15).
  • It’s worth mentioning again: the comeback was the largest in school history.
  • Williams led the team in passing, rushing, and receiving.



UNC Football Preview: Georgia Tech’s Triple Option Always a Test

For the first time during Head Coach Larry Fedora’s four-year tenure, the UNC Football team is 3-1 after its first four games. This week the Tar Heels take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta—a place they have not won since 1997.

To come away with the victory, UNC will have to show improvement in its run defense—which ranks 113th in the nation–against Tech’s triple option offensive system.

Last season’s ACC Coastal Division Champions, the Yellow Jackets sit at 2-2 (0-1 in ACC play) so far in 2015—coming off back-to-back losses at the hands of Notre Dame and Duke. This is nothing new for Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson and his team, though, as they took a similar pathway to the conference title game a year ago, losing to Duke and UNC in consecutive weeks before rattling off a five-game win streak to close out the year.

Fedora knows Johnson will use that to motivate his squad going into this game.

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas works the triple option. (Bleacher Report)

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas works the triple option. (Bleacher Report)

“I don’t think Paul is gonna panic by any means,” Fedora said. “He is not that kind of guy. He knows they’re gonna keep doing what they do. He’s gonna get things going in the right direction. I don’t think he’s in any panic mode at all.”

Georgia Tech is known for their unique, old-school triple option offense, which pounds the ball in the running game using clever deception to throw off the defense—with the three options being a run up the middle, a quarterback keeper, or a pitch to the outside.

Currently giving up 228 yards per game on the ground, UNC senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer says he and his group will have to do better–both mentally and physically– to hold the Yellow Jacket running game in check.

“Their offense is unlike any other that we’ve faced so far, or will face [this season]” Schoettmer said. “The triple option’s all about eye discipline and doing your job.

“On any given play you can have a dive player, a quarterback player, and a pitch player. Guys can’t be greedy with their eyes. They gotta keep their eyes in the right place, and really take care of their job, and trust that the other guy is gonna take care of their job.”

One of the other keys for Georgia Tech is that its offense keeps the clock running, shortening the overall length of the game. The Yellow Jackets are highly allergic to passing the ball, as evidenced by the fact that quarterback Justin Thomas has thrown just 58 passes this year—completing just 24 of them for 415 yards.

It'll be important for the Tar Heels to stay in their tackling lanes if they want to slow down the run. (UNC Athletics)

It’ll be important for the Tar Heels to stay in their tackling lanes if they want to slow down the run. (UNC Athletics)

Tar Heel offensive guard Landon Turner sees that as their biggest weakness.

“With those kinds of teams, when they want to control the clock, they’re not really built to come from behind,” Turner said. “When we get the ball we need to make sure we’re taking advantage of our opportunities and start to get up and put pressure on their offense and not the other way around—with them putting pressure on the clock for us.”

For UNC to jump out to the early lead Turner talked about, they’ll need a clean game from senior quarterback Marquise Williams. Williams, who gets another shot to maintain his hold on the starting job, realizes that with the way Georgia Tech plays—milking the clock down–he may not see the ball as much as he would in other games.

“It’s more important to take care of the football and seizing every possession we get,” Williams said about the offensive strategy. “I think last year [against Georgia Tech] we got maybe 10 or 11 possessions and we seized every possession we got. So we have to take care of the football, move the chains, and try to help our defense not stay on the field that long.”

One thing is for sure heading into this Saturday. Williams and the Tar Heels are fired up to be done with their non-conference schedule. Now it’s on to the big boys, as the cupcakes have all been eaten. With that said, Williams can be forgiven for sleepwalking a bit against Delaware, but Tar Heel fans can rest easy knowing he has a much different attitude about Georgia Tech.

Marquise Williams (12) will be starting at quarterback this weekend, despite the controversy around the position. (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (12) will be starting at quarterback this weekend, despite the controversy around the position. (UNC Athletics)

“That’s a great football team,” the senior quarterback said about his opponent. “Two losses, that doesn’t mean nothing. They still got a chance to win the ACC Championship just like we do, in the Coastal.

“Those guys’ll come back. They’re back at home now, in front of their fans, and we’re coming up there. It just seems like every ACC school that plays us comes out bangin’ and ready to go. And we’re excited for another opportunity.”

Broadcast Information:

The game is set to kickoff at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on WCHL’s airwaves. TV coverage will be shown on ESPNU.

Game Notes:

  • The Tar Heels have yet to win an ACC opener under Fedora, going 0-3 so far during his tenure.
  • UNC won a 48-43 shootout against the Yellow Jackets at Kenan Stadium in 2014. Marquise Williams led the way with 390 yards passing, 73 yards rushing, and 5 total touchdowns.
  • Despite the team’s woes defending the run, they rank third in the nation in passing yards allowed, and are 16th in total scoring defense. They have yet to allow more than 17 points in a game in 2015.
  • It was announced on Thursday that junior linebacker Joe Jackson has suffered a career-ending neck injury, and will no longer be with the team.

UNC Baseball Wins Series, Splits Doubleheader With Yellow Jackets

In some exciting ACC action on Saturday, the 22nd ranked UNC baseball team split a doubleheader with their Coastal Division foes, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech rallied from a five run deficit to take the first game 6-5 on Thomas Smith’s walk-off single, before Benton Moss pitched Carolina to a 5-1 victory in the second leg.

UNC is now 14-9 overall, with a 4-3 mark in the conference, while the Yellow Jackets sit at 16-7 overall and an identical 4-3 ACC record.

Game One

In the first act of the afternoon it looked like victory was a sure thing for the Tar Heels, however Georgia Tech had other plans, in the second consecutive game between the two teams to be decided in the ninth inning.

Freshman JB Bukauskas was cruising on the mound early on, Korey Dunbar picked up where he left off last night with an RBI double in his first at-bat, and third baseman Alex Raburn hit a Grand Slam in the top of the fourth that put UNC ahead by five runs.

The feat was made even more impressive by the fact that Georgia Tech starting pitcher Brandon Gold came into the game with a 3-0 record and a flawless 0.61 ERA.

JB Bukauskas continues to be lights out for UNC, despite getting a no decision in Game 1. (UNC Athletics)

JB Bukauskas continues to be lights out for UNC, despite getting a no decision in Game 1. (UNC Athletics)

But the Yellow Jackets were not going to lie down that easily.

After managing just three hits and no runs against Bukauskas through the first five innings, they found the chink in the young phenom’s armor early in the sixth.

Tech second baseman Wade Bailey singled home A.J. Murray for the first run, and ended Bukauskas’s day. UNC head coach Mike Fox went with his reliable workhorse, Trevor Kelley to try and get out of the inning, but not before right-fielder Ryan Peurifoy drove in two more to bring the boys from Atlanta within striking distance.

With the game becoming closer and closer, the Georgia Tech bullpen certainly did their part to aid the come back, as their combination of Patrick Wiseman, Devin Stanton, and Zac Ryan combined to throw the last four innings without allowing a single hit to a Tar Heel batter.

By the eighth inning, the dam finally broke. Peurifoy picked up his third RBI of the day on a clutch triple off of Kelley, who pitched the final 3.2 innings of the game, that pulled the lead within one. Then center-fielder Daniel Spingola’s ground rule double down the left-field line allowed Peurifoy to come across and tie the game.

Although Carolina was able to pull out the big hit when it mattered last night, it was not to be in this one. Alex Raburn walked to lead off the ninth, but the next three men went down in order, to give the Yellow Jackets a prime opportunity to steal this one away.

They would do just that, as first baseman Thomas Smith singled to drive in super-freshman Kel Johnson, and put the finishing touches on a 6-5 victory and an improbable comeback.

Thomas Smith was the hero in the first game, hitting a walk-off single. (fromtherumbleseat.com)

Thomas Smith was the hero in the first game, hitting a walk-off single. (fromtherumbleseat.com)

Game Two

Right away in the second game the Tar Heels showed how bad they wanted to recover from the collapse earlier in the day and earn the series win.

After each team manufactured a run in the first inning, up came UNC’s savior from last night, Korey Dunbar. On the first pitch he saw from Yellow Jackets’ starter Cole Pitts, Dunbar sent a deep blast to to left center-field to give Carolina a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way.

Back on the mound for the Tar Heels after three weeks away from game action was senior starter Benton Moss.

Judging by today’s outing, it appears Moss is back to full form, as he worked a full six innings, striking out eight Georgia Tech hitters, and allowing just one run on 94 pitches.

Pitts lasted five innings for his team, and kept the game close by not surrendering anything else after Dunbar’s home run, but once the bullpen took over, the Carolina offense had a shot at redemption for their hitless performace against the relievers in the first game.

They were able to scratch across a run in the sixth on a fielder’s choice by Alex Raburn, which scored Skye Bolt. In the next inning, mistakes hurt Georgia Tech dearly, as UNC plated two more runs, one due to a wild pitch and the other because of a throwing error.

Trent Thornton retired all nine batters he faced on the way to his fourth save of the year. (UNC Athletics)

Trent Thornton retired all nine batters he faced on the way to his fourth save of the year. (UNC Athletics)

Last night’s credited winner, junior Trent Thornton, came in at the beginning of the seventh in relief of Moss, and he was on point.

Thornton cruised through the Yellow Jacket lineup tonight after giving up the game-tying home run to Kel Johnson on Friday. He struck out five of the nine batters he faced over three innings, did not allow a hit, and earned his fourth save of the year.

Up Next:

Tuesday marks the next game on the schedule for the Tar Heels, as they’ll welcome the Appalachian State Mountaineers to Boshamer Stadium for a game under the lights. First pitch for that one is set for 6 P.M. Starting pitchers are still to be decided.

Notes From The Day:

  • Alex Raburn’s home run for UNC in Game 1 was his second in a three game span, after having previously hit none for the year. Korey Dunbar achieved the same feat today with his homer in Game 2.
  • Game 2 marked Benton Moss’s first start since going out with arm tightness after the Rhode Island series in late February.
  • UNC scored 10 runs in total on the day, despite cranking out just 11 hits.
  • The Tar Heels also hit just 2-21 with runners in scoring position for the entire day.




Dunbar’s Ninth Inning Homer Leads UNC Past Georgia Tech

The UNC baseball team came into Friday’s series opener at Georgia Tech needing to make a statement.

Having slipped to 22nd in the polls, and lost five of their past seven games, North Carolina got what they were looking for when catcher Korey Dunbar played hero, hitting a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning that broke a 3-3 tie, and led the Tar Heels to a 5-3 victory in Atlanta on Friday night. UNC improves to 13-8 overall and 4-3 in the conference with the win.

Leaders of the ACC Coastal division heading into the weekend, the Yellow Jackets rallied late in the game to tie things up, but were put out for good after Dunbar’s clutch bomb. Their record falls to 15-6 overall, with a 4-3 ACC mark.

Making his third consecutive Friday start for the Tar Heels was sophomore Zac Gallen, who took a loss last weekend after giving up eight runs in 3.2 innings at Pitt, but struck out 12 Duke batters in a win the week before–in a masterful performance.

To defeat a team as tough as Georgia Tech, UNC needed an appearance from the Gallen that was last seen mowing through the Blue Devil lineup.

Skye Bolt was back in center-field on Friday night after being benched on Tuesday. (UNC Athletics)

Skye Bolt was back in center-field on Friday night after being benched on Tuesday. (UNC Athletics)

Attention was also focused on junior outfielders Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter, to see if they would respond in a big way after they were each benched for Tuesday’s game against Davidson, and called out publicly by Coach Fox for ongoing academic issues.

In the first inning, it was clear that the “Good Gallen” had shown up in Atlanta, retiring the side in order, including striking out Georgia Tech’s top two hitters, outfielders Keenan Innis and Kel Johnson (both men are hitting above .350 on the year).

And in the top of the third, Bolt and Lassiter got their chance to remind everyone, especially Yellow Jacket starter Jonathan King, what they’re capable of.

Lassiter singled, after Korey Dunbar led off the frame with a double, to set up right-fielder Tyler Ramirez, who hit a sacrifice fly to score Dunbar and give UNC the first lead of the game.

Two batters later, Bolt raked a two-out double into right-centerfield that allowed Lassiter to come around and score. The next man up, freshman shortstop Logan Warmoth followed up with a double of his own, sending Bolt in to give the Tar Heels a three-run lead.

Catcher Korey Dunbar’s double kicked off a three-run third inning and his homer in the ninth clinched the game. (UNC Athletics)

The way Gallen was pitching, it appeared that would be more than enough to secure a victory. Through four innings Georgia Tech had yet to score, and recorded just two hits.

Not until the fifth inning did the Yellow Jackets manage to manufacture some scoring, getting a run on shortstop Connor Justus’s RBI single, but the damage was stopped right there, as Gallen retired the next two men up to escape the inning.

Despite giving up a hit to Kel Johnson in the sixth, Gallen added three more strikeouts to his total–Georgia Tech swinging and missing for the third strike each time.

He lasted seven full innings in total, coming out after surrendering a hit to the first batter he faced in the bottom of the eighth, and as his pitch count reached 98. For the game Gallen struck out seven Yellow Jackets while scattering seven hits, only giving up more than one hit in the fifth, where Georgia Tech got their only run off of the sophomore right-hander.

Trouble struck when junior Trent Thornton took the mound out of the bullpen. Thornton (1-1) got Keenan Innis to fly out, but everything changed in the next at-bat, when Kel Johnson stepped into the batter’s box.

Johnson crushed a two-run home run to right field, tying the contest with just one out in the inning. The Tar Heels would get it together, however, and head into the top of the ninth with the game tied at three apiece.

It was Dunbar's first homer of the season. (UNC Athletics)

It was Dunbar’s first homer of the season. (UNC Athletics)

Adam Pate led off the inning with a single off of reliever Tanner Shelton (1-1), forcing the Yellow Jackets to bring in another pitcher, Matt Phillips.

A sacrifice bunt by second baseman Elijah Sutherland put Pate on second, and brought Korey Dunbar to the plate for his magical moment, which allowed Thornton to pick up the win, and gave the loss to Shelton.

Picking up his second save of the year in the bottom of the ninth was Trevor Kelley, the senior making his team leading 15th relief appearance of the year. Kelley did what he’s done all year, striking out two of the three men he faced in the inning.

Up Next:

Rain in Sunday’s forecast has moved Sunday’s game to Saturday, meaning the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets will close out the series with a doubleheader tomorrow.

Game 1 is set to begin at 1 P.M. and features JB Bukauskas (3-1, 2.70 ERA) on the mound for UNC, taking on senior Cole Pitts (0-1, 3.97 ERA). Game 2 will start approximately 40 minutes after the conclusion of the first game and will mark the return of the Tar Heels’ senior starter Benton Moss (2-0, 2.30 ERA), as he faces Georgia Tech’s Brandon Gold (3-0, 0.61 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • Landon Lassiter went 2-5 with a double in his return to the lineup, while Georgia native Skye Bolt went 1-2 with a double, a stolen base, an RBI, and two walks (one of them a hit-by-pitch)
  • Georgia Tech’s right-fielder Kel Johnson, who came in with an NCAA freshman high six home runs, went 2-4 with the late two-run homer, but also added two strikeouts.
  • UNC’s pitching held the Yellow Jackets to a 2-14 (.143) performance with runners on base.
  • Trevor Kelley’s ERA drops below the 1.00 mark, as he now has pitched 28 innings and allowed just three earned runs.



Tar Heels Hope Atlanta Will Bring New Life

During head baseball coach Mike Fox’s 17 year tenure at UNC, there’s been one letter many have come to associate with the program: the W.

That’s why five losses over the past seven games by Fox’s 22nd ranked Tar Heels, paired with a sub-standard 12-8 overall record (3-3 in conference), have raised some eyebrows as they head to Atlanta this weekend to face the ACC Coastal Division leaders, the 15-5 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-2 in the ACC).

For comparison’s sake, Carolina’s 2013 team, which placed third at the College World Series, lost only 12 games the entire regular season (out of 71 total).

Logan Warmoth has been a bright spot on defense ever since taking over at shortstop. (UNC Athletics)

Logan Warmoth has been the bright spot on defense ever since taking over at shortstop. (UNC Athletics)

“We’ve had our struggles, but we’ve gotta regroup. We’ve gotta play better defense, that’s the bottom line,” Coach Fox says, “They got a short ballpark down there, you gotta do your best to keep the ball in the ballpark, fly balls down there have a tendency to go out.”

Defensive issues have severely hurt the Tar Heels in the early going, with the proof being found not only in the statistics, but also in the win-loss column.

Last year’s 2014 team finished 35-27 and was bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and was considered an anomaly by the Carolina faithful. That team allowed 27 unearned runs (usually the result of defensive errors) and committed 75 errors throughout their 62 game campaign.

Believe it or not, in just 20 games this year, the Tar Heels have already given up 30 unearned runs and recorded 33 errors. Those numbers have to mean something, right?

Georgia Tech freshman Kel Johnson will present a significant challenge. (Georgia Tech Athletics)

Georgia Tech freshman Kel Johnson will present a significant challenge. (Georgia Tech Athletics)

Whatever it means, they’ll surely have to figure out a way to deal with Georgia Tech’s freshman slugger, Kel Johnson. In his 85 at-bats, Johnson has lit up scoreboards everywhere he’s played, racking up a .365 average with six homers and 23 RBI.

In their previous game, a heartbreaking loss on Tuesday to Davidson, they came just inches shy of overcoming a ten-run deficit to win the game. Despite picking up another loss, freshman Brian Miller, leading the team with a .450 batting average, says they plan to use the rally as motivation moving forward.

“We’re gonna have to put those first four or five innings behind us, but a takeaway from this game is obviously that last inning, where we battled and got a lot of guys some good at-bats, and got in there and hit the ball hard,” Miller says, “so hopefully it’ll carry over and we’ll win the series this weekend.”

Another hugely important factor heading into Atlanta will be the status of veteran outfielders Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter, both of whom were mysteriously removed from the lineup on Tuesday. Coach Fox did not hold back when explaining why he made the moves.

“That’s not rest, that’s them not doing what they’re supposed to do,” says Coach, “We have tutors here for a reason, and we pay for those, the athletic department pays for those tutors, and when you’re required to go to them you’re required to go. And if you don’t you’re short-changing yourself, somebody else, and you’re being selfish.”

“I don’t tolerate that here, and that’s why they didn’t play,” Fox added.

Veteran leadership from players like Bolt and Lassiter will be necessary, as well as the young freshman on the team have produced, if this team expects the ship to turn around over the last two thirds of the season.

We’ll find out how they respond with their backs against the wall starting on Friday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7 P.M.


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.



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.


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***



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***


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.