ATLANTA -- He doesn’t need to do it often, but UNC coach Roy Williams lit into his team at halftime. The Tar Heels had spent 20 listless minutes in the first half and Williams verbally let them have it, even though they had a three-point lead over Georgia Tech.
“I challenged them at halftime,” Williams said. “I’ve done that before. I don’t mind making them mad.”
But no matter what was said at halftime, the Tar Heels could never put away a Georgia Tech club that barely survived an upset bid by North Carolina A&T on Wednesday night. And when the Heels reached for the extra gear, they just couldn’t find it.
“I jumped our guys at halftime and challenged them, ‘If you’re going to be tough enough to shoot, be tough enough to make it,’” Williams said. “And it made them tighter. It didn’t work.”
There were plenty of bad shooting performances to go around for UNC. The Tar Heels made just 33.3 percent field and only 5-for-26 on 3-pointers (19.2 percent). That’s far below the shooting numbers the Tar Heels have shown this season.
Justin Jackson, coming off his 28-point effort against Monmouth, was 6-for-17. Joel Berry, who still didn’t have his legs after dealing with a stomach virus, was 3-for-13. Kenny Williams was 1-for-7. Brandon Robinson was 0-for-5.
“We missed so many shots,” Williams said. “Joel Berry, as we said the other night, he’s been sick. But Joel 3-for-13, Justin 6-for-17 … those are not good numbers. But the numbers in my head are much worse for me as a head coach because I have to get things better than I did today.”
The Tar Heels were never able to respond favorably to Georgia Tech’s 1-3-1 defense. They were sluggish moving to the ball and reacting to the aggressive nature of the Yellow Jackets’ defense.
“They played it well. They were more aggressive,” Williams said. “We didn’t move like we wanted to move. We didn’t get to the spots we wanted to get to. We practiced it (Friday) in preparation. You have to attack when they spread it out like that. The 1-3-1 covering the entire half court can really be good, we’ve played it ourselves, but you need to attack it better than we did.”
Equally appalling were the turnovers. North Carolina gave it away a season-high 20 times, 7.2 more than the season average. Over the last two games the Tar Heels have turned it over 37 times.
“We tried to penetrate the basket and we lost it on penetration,” Williams said. “We got an offensive rebound and three different times go up to lay it up and lost it on that. There were a lot of ways.”
If there was a way to give it up, the Tar Heels found it. And, as a result, they now find themselves 0-1 to start the ACC season.