Bouncing Back

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- With the season nearing an end and many of the team’s goals in serious jeopardy, North Carolina blew Georgia Tech off the Smith Center court with a performance certain to make those in town remember the legacy and life of Coach Dean Smith.

“We’ve been great about moving on to the next game,” said J.P. Tokoto, whose Tar Heels entered Saturday’s game coming off a devastating loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium. “If we came in here today sad and gloomy about the Duke loss, we wouldn’t have played like that today.”

“Like that” included a 62.3 field goal percentage, only eight turnovers, six Tar Heels in double figures led by Kennedy Meeks’s 18 and a lead that ballooned to 38 points before Roy Williams called off the dogs.

Bouncing back after a rough stretch was a must if this Carolina team wants to remain relevant heading into the postseason.

“It’s been tough with the loss of Coach Smith and also us losing a couple tough games,” Marcus Paige. “Going up to Pitt and us not performing the way we wanted to. Then losing a heartbreaker to Duke. This was a great way to bounce back.

“We really needed this one for our confidence and everything. And to get a positive thing going. We played some good basketball the past two games, but it feels a lot better when you win. Today was big for that. “

Paige, who struggled against Pitt and Duke, finished with his first career double-double totaling 13 points and 10 assists, highlighted by zero turnovers. It was the first 10-0 game since Kendall Marshall’s performance against NC State exactly three years ago.

“Sometimes I get caught up and put a lot of pressure on myself and not thinking about the process and thinking too much about the result of what’s going on,” Paige said. “I had to slow down and lose myself in the game and focus on what’s going on for us -- how our team is doing and how I can help the team. That makes it a lot easier.

“When you put pressure on yourself to worry about the result at the end of the game, you aren’t going to play as well and I think if I just relax and play basketball like I was able to do today, I’ll be a lot more successful.”

Justin Jackson joined Paige in getting back on track following a disappointing trip to Durham.

“For Marcus, someone in the media said Marcus said he let us down,” Jackson said. “For me, him and Joel (Berry II), I think we shot 4-25 (against Duke). For us three – Joel was out today – that hurts. Some of the shots we usually make don’t fall and we end up losing by two. To know we could have helped the team more...

“Coach talks about next play, next game so to see Marcus come out and hit a few shots, I hit a few shots. That was big.”

Many will say it was just Georgia Tech and the Jackets have struggled to a 12-15 overall record and stand just 3-12 in conference play. Don’t tell Roy Williams that.

“It’s the ACC and it’s a marathon that’s run uphill for 26 miles,” Williams said. “If you do that, you’re not doing justice to Georgia Tech. (They) have had some tough, tough games and they go to Miami and beat Miami. So I don’t think you are being fair to Georgia Tech’s team. I think Brian Gregory’s done a really nice job with his team. Those kids work awfully hard and this is the ACC.”

The win improved UNC’s record to 19-8 overall and 9-5 in the ACC -- with NC State looming Tuesday night in the Smith Center.

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