Heels get stung, 88-68

ATLANTA – On most nights North Carolina's defense is required to give the Tar Heels a chance at victory. Rarely does UNC's offense put on enough of a show to overcome a mediocre defensive effort. And on evenings when both are poor, the result will be similar to what Matt Doherty's team experienced Wednesday.

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Chris Bosh scored 22 points and B.J. Elder added 19 as Georgia Tech dismantled the seemingly lifeless Tar Heels, 88-68, before an announced sellout crowd of 9,191 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

"Georgia Tech is a tough team to play," Doherty said. "They are a very talented team. The only thing they are lacking is experience and once they get that they are going to be as good as anybody."

Despite arguably its worst defensive performance of the year and another offensive adventure, the Tar Heels (11-8, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) managed to get within striking distance, closing to 66-60 on a Jackie Manuel layup with 10:02 left in the game. But Tech's Marvin Lewis (18 points) drilled a wide open 3-pointer from the left wing, made a free throw, Ed Nelson sank a short jumper, and Bosh converted a conventional three-point play to give the Jackets (10-7, 3-3) a 75-60 cushion, and the rout was on.

In fact, following Manuel's bucket, Carolina was outscored 17-1 over a 7:04 stretch, with Tech extending its lead to 83-61 with 3:13 left. And for Carolina, it was loss number three in as many games, and the second consecutive poor defensive game.

"We cut it to six and then Georgia Tech went on a heck of a run and we've got to do a better job defensively," UNC's disappointed coach said.

Freshman forward David Noel said the plethora of wide open shots were the result of the Heels being slower than usual.

"I think we were (slow)," he said. "I think we were worried about their inside game a lot, and they setting screen after screen after screen, and we were just trying to get around them but we were just getting stuck."

While N.C. State shot nearly 53 percent from 3-point range on Sunday, at least many of the buckets were contested shot attempts. Tonight, only precious few Tech jumpers were, and considering UNC's tooth-pulling offense, disaster was a no-brainer.

Check these numbers out for size: Tech shot 49.2% (29-59) from the field, including 47.4% (9-19) from beyond the arc. The Yellow Jackets also registered an impressive 22 assists. The Tar Heels, however, shot 39% (23-59) from the floor, including 28% (7-25) from 3-point range. Also note that the Jackets won the rebounding battle, 43-32.

"Teams bring their A-game for us," McCants said. "That's all I can come up with. Balls fall for them, we just gotta keep working, shooting, more shooting. We need to find an answer for this."

And to make matters worse, Doherty was whistled for a technical foul after an 8-0 Carolina run got the Heels within 59-53, and just like that, Tech was re-energized and UNC suddenly looked flat-footed again.

"It might have (affected the game)," Doherty said about his technical. "I wasn't trying to get a technical. I just thought there were a few traveling calls that were not being called. I didn't curse or anything like that, I just felt they needed to be called. So, I was not trying to get a technical foul."

Williams said it had an effect on the game.

"Point-wise it did," the sophomore from Cleveland said. "I won't say emotionally it killed us. But point-wise it did. Those were huge points for them."

Although the Tar Heels managed to cut it to six again, this was not their night in any way. The offense once again ran few set plays, and Doherty took responsibility for not getting Jawad Williams - 22 points in the first half but just two in the second - more looks in the final period.

"I felt bad I didn't help Jawad more in the second half," Doherty said. "I should have done some more things for him. He had a sensational first half and I wish I could have helped him more in the second half."

Rashad McCants, Carolina's leading scorer, was held to a season-low 12 points on 5-18 shooting, and Raymond Felton finished with 11 points, but only three in the final 24 minutes.

"I think he (McCants) missed a lot of shots that he normally hits," said Doherty. "And I think it was just one of those nights, and that happens."

Freshman point guard Jarrett Jack had 13 points and eight assists for Paul Hewitt's team and sophomore forward Ed Nelson, last year's ACC Rookie of the Year, finished with six points and 13 rebounds.

Georgia Tech closed the half with a 12-3 spurt to lead 51-38, but it was the run before the run that led to the final explosion.

After Felton's 3-pointer put Carolina ahead 25-23 with 8:11 left before intermission, the Yellow Jackets retook the lead on another Bosh 3. And then an Elder 3, a Bosh soft hook, and a fade away jumper by Nelson later gave Tech a 35-26 lead and left the Heels looking as if they were wearing anchors.

UNC did cut it to 39-35 on a pair of Damion Grant free throws, but Tech responded with its closing run.

And for the Tar Heels, they must regroup quickly. Next up is a visit from Wake Forest and then a trip to Duke.

"We just need to get back to work and try to get better," Noel said. "We have to learn from games like this, otherwise we won't improve and it could get rough."

Based on the last four days, it already has.

Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He also covers the ACC for the Wilmington Star-News/Morning Star and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.

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