CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 9 North Carolina hit a season-high 14 3-pointers in its 91-72 rout of Virginia Tech at the Smith Center on Thursday.
The Hokies jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead, but it quickly evaporated as Joel Berry hit three treys in a row to keep UNC within striking distance. Consecutive 3-pointers by Theo Pinson and Nate Britt followed, awakening the crowd and giving Roy Williams’s team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The 14 threes erased UNC’s former season-high of 12 makes, which came in the 51-point blowout of N.C. State on Jan. 8. The Tar Heels drained seven threes in the first 10 minutes of the first half. UNC stayed hot after halftime as it opened up the second half with three consecutive treys.
“We have some pretty good shooters and we practice a lot,” Williams told reporters after the game. “Most of the shots, with the exception of Justin’s with the shot clock winding down, most of them were shots we work on everyday in practice. We also understand who the shooters are. Kennedy hasn’t taken a three, Isaiah hasn’t taken a three. Justin and Joel made five and five and they’re our two highest percentage shooters.”
Six Tar Heels in total hit a shot from beyond the arc. This was UNC’s first game since Tulane on Nov. 11 in which Justin Jackson and Berry have both hit four or more three-pointers.
The performance is a good sign for Williams’s side, which made no more than eight threes in its past four ACC games.
“That’s just guys stepping into it confidently,” Jackson said. “Joel shot great, Kenny [Williams] shot good, B-Rob knocked one in for us, so I think everyone stepped into their shots confidently and were ready to shoot.”
Jackson’s five 3-pointers helped him lead all scorers with 26 points.
Dominance on Boards
The Tar Heels outmuscled the Hokies on the boards for the full 40 minutes, outrebounding their opponents, 43-22. The overpowering performance started early with forward Kennedy Meeks tipping in an errant Berry three-point attempt for UNC’s first bucket of the game. The Tar Heels finished the first half with a 26-10 rebounding advantage, including 16 offensive rebounds.
Virginia Tech’s Khadim Sy (6-foot-10) was the only Hokie to play standing taller than 6-foot-7. Even with a slight height advantage over Meeks and Hicks, the Hokie center was able amass just one rebound in 17 minutes of play.
Meeks finished the game with seven offensive rebounds, but to the dismay of his coach, several of them came off of his own misses. Still, it was the early offensive rebounds that helped UNC take control late in the second half and complement the assault from the three-point line.
Pinson Tweaks Ankle
Pinson left the game with five minutes left in the first half after a hard fall during a defensive rebound. The 6-foot-6 wing rolled his right ankle on the play and did not return as a precautionary measure.
Pinson left the game with five points, including a 3-pointer at the top of the key to give UNC a 16-15 lead with 14 minutes left in the first half. The junior “stat-sheet stuffer” also added three rebounds, and two assists to his name in six minutes off of the bench.
Pinson missed the first 16 games on the season after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. Williams did not know immediately after the game if an X-ray would be taken.
Small Ball Not Needed
Entering this matchup, the undersized Hokies knew they would need to get Meeks and Hicks in foul trouble early to stand a chance on the road. Instead of opting to go at UNC’s bigs, they spent most of the first half taking their chances from beyond the arc. That allowed either Meeks or Hicks to stay on the court for almost all of the first half, as UNC only went small with 1:30 left in the half.
The tandem of Hicks and Meeks were able to be on the floor for most of the second half as well. Hicks went to the bench at the 7:30 mark of the half after earning his fourth foul, but returned right under the five-minute mark. He finished the game with six points and six rebounds.
Meeks thrived against his undersized defenders, as he finished the game with his eighth double-double of the season. The Charlotte, N.C. native accounted for 15 points and 14 rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
Tony Bradley showed good production in 19 minutes, corralling six rebounds, even when faced against Sy, who subbed in to combat UNC’s tallest player.
Due to little foul trouble and the nature of the double-digit win, the Tar Heels weren’t forced to resort to the small-ball lineup in the second half. That amounts to only 90 seconds of the game's 40 minutes with UNC opting to go small.
UNC travels to Coral Gables on Saturday for a matchup with Miami (1 p.m./CBS). The Hurricanes are 13-6 (3-4 ACC) and 1-3 in their last four games.