North Carolina (12-2) vs. Georgia Tech (8-4)
Atlanta – McCamish Pavilion
ACC Network (Tim Brando, Mike Gminiski)
“I think it’s always good after a win that you’re able to really jump the guys and get on the guys because it’s easier to do that after a win than obviously after a loss when their confidence is lowered… I think this will be good for us in the long run because it will help us get a lot of video to show and to clean some things up for zone offense.” – GT coach Josh Pastner on how the Yellow Jackets’ win over N.C A&T helps in preparation for UNC
Heels Handle Hawks: The Tar Heels closed out their out-of-conference schedule on Wednesday with a 102-74 win over the Monmouth Hawks. Roy Williams’ squad looked fully prepared for conference play, as they outscored Monmouth by 19 in the second half. Junior forward Justin Jackson, UNC’s leading scorer, added another impressive performance to this season’s resume, scoring 28 points off of 6-9 shooting from the 3-point line. The Tar Heels’ two starters down low showed up as well, as senior Kennedy Meeks recorded a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Isaiah Hicks dropped 15 points while collecting nine rebounds.
Georgia Tech Spotlight: The Yellow Jackets come into their matchup with UNC riding a two-game winning streak, but head coach Josh Pastner’s team has yet to put a streak of more than three consecutive wins together this season. GT’s play has been just as inconsistent as their record shows. Recently, the Yellow Jackets have been blown out by two SEC-opponents in Tennessee (81-58) and Georgia (60-43), and have barely scraped single-digit wins in their last two games against Wofford and North Carolina A&T. GT ranks 53rd in the nation in points allowed per game (65.0), but ranks 287th in points scored per game (68.1).
Group Effort: Similar to the production that UNC gets out of its starters, the Yellow Jackets have seen all five starters step up in different situations in 2016-17. Four starters average over ten points per game, and seven players are averaging over 20 minutes of playtime so far this season. While this doesn’t correlate to immediate success, it’s an indicator that the Jackets are deep and have players with a lot of experience coming first off of the bench. As such with a cohesive group, the Yellow Jackets tend to feed off of each other: if one player on the court is off, then the other four are as well. A prime example would be the N.C. A&T game, where GT shot a poor 19-48 from the field against the 1-12 Aggies.
Matchup to Watch: All eyes should be, and will be, on Yellow Jackets center Ben Lammers bodying up with Kennedy Meeks. Both men stand at 6-foot-10 and will be looking to outdo one another in each’s ACC opener. Lammers has been stellar in 2016, leading his team in scoring (14.9 ppg) while also bringing in 10 rebounds per game. Lammers’s shot-blocking ability could potentially pose a problem for Meeks on the blocks. Lammers is averaging 3.8 blocks per game, one of the reasons that GT ranks eighth in the country in total blocks. Meeks outweighs the lankier Lammers, and may look to use his body to force contact in the paint to take control of the matchup. Regardless, both men will look to add another double-double to their resume by the end of the night.
Last Meeting: UNC topped Georgia Tech, 86-78, at the Smith Center on Jan. 2, 2016. The Tar Heels trailed by three points at halftime before shooting 57.7 percent in the second half to pull away. Joel Berry led UNC with 19 points.
Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the series, 66-23.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.4 ppg, 4.8 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 13.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 17.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 6.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Projected Georgia Tech Starters:
44 Ben Lammers (6-10, 227, Jr.) – 14.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg
5 Josh Okogie (6-4, 207, Fr.) – 13.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
12 Quinton Stephens (6-9, 196, Sr.) - 10.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg
0 Justin Moore (6-4, 162, Fr.) – 6.1 ppg, 3.9 apg
1 Tadric Jackson (6-2, 209, Jr.) – 12.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg