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UNC NOTEBOOK

Tar Heels find few positives in lackluster Georgia Tech loss

By Jason Staples Special to the Times
Posted 1/7/20

North Carolina scored a season-high 83 points on Saturday behind Garrison Brooks’ career-high 35 points, the most by a Tar Heel since Bryce Johnson scored 39 in January of 2016. Unfortunately, …

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UNC NOTEBOOK

Tar Heels find few positives in lackluster Georgia Tech loss

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North Carolina scored a season-high 83 points on Saturday behind Garrison Brooks’ career-high 35 points, the most by a Tar Heel since Bryce Johnson scored 39 in January of 2016. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find many more positives from a staggeringly poor performance in which the Carolina not only lost to Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill for the first time in a decade, but were not even competitive in a 96-83 blowout.

“It’s the most disappointing, the most upset I have ever been in my life coaching a basketball game,” a visibly frustrated Roy Williams said afterwards. “It’s not even close.”

UNC had eight turnovers before making a single field goal, which came over 13 minutes into the first half, as the Heels missed their first fifteen shots from the floor as Georgia Tech built a 30-6 lead. But it wasn’t the poor shooting that had Williams so disappointed; it was the poor defense and low intensity displayed by his team.

Georgia Tech shot .590 from the field (.629 in the second half), including 24 dunks or layups as the Yellow Jackets — who are expected to finish near the bottom of the ACC — were able to get to the rim seemingly at will. Tech’s 54 points in the paint were 20 points more than any other Carolina opponent this season, and the Jackets’ 1.32 points per possession is tied for the fourth highest by an opponent in the 600 games of the Roy Williams era.

Carolina also finished the first half without a single second-chance point, yet another illustration of just how lethargic the Tar Heels were in the early going.

Remarkably, despite being down by 20 at the half (the largest halftime deficit in Smith Center history), Carolina managed to cut the lead to single digits with 16 minutes left before fading as Georgia Tech continued to convert on easy looks at the offensive end.

The effort at least appeared better after the half, reflected by the Heels’ 19 second-chance points in the second half. That still wasn’t enough to assuage Williams’ disappointment over his team’s lack of pride, but if Carolina fans are looking for anything this team may be able to build on coming out of an embarrassing loss, that and the season-high 56 second-half points may offer at least a little hope. Carolina is running out of time to figure things out if the Heels hope to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, however.

HARRIS OUT FOR SEASON

Carolina’s poor effort came one day after Williams confirmed that freshman guard Anthony Harris had indeed torn the ACL in his right knee against Yale on Dec. 30. Harris had provided a spark since joining the lineup after completing rehabilitation after a torn ACL in his left knee from his senior year of high school.

Over Harris’ last three games, Carolina had been plus-45 with him on the floor (44 minutes) and minus-45 in the 76 minutes with him on the bench. The first half of the Georgia Tech game certainly resembled that second number.

Andrew Platek sat out his second consecutive game with an ankle injury, while Cole Anthony will be out another few games as he works his way back from meniscus surgery.

FOOTBALL ALL STARS

North Carolina football got a little extra exposure from excellent performances by signees in national all-star games late last week. Most notably, receiver Josh Downs set a new All-American Bowl record with nine catches for a game-high 120 yards on Saturday. Downs was open seemingly every time he ran a route and displayed terrific quickness with the ball in his hands, standing out even among other top national recruits. Downs is an early enrollee and will be on campus for the spring with a good chance to make significant contributions in the fall.

Safety Ja’Quarious Conley (Jacksonville, Fla.) and defensive tackle Clyde Pinder, Jr. also played in the game, with Conley finishing with one tackle and three kickoff returns for 95 yards, while Pinder had a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery.

Carolina was also represented by a pair of defensive ends in Thursday’s Under Armour All-America Game, with Des Evans compiling a sack, tackle for loss, and two QB hurries, while Myles Murphy added a tackle.

NUMBERS OF THE WEEK

.944. Garrison Brooks was 17 for 18 from the free throw line against Georgia Tech, the second-best single-game percentage in UNC school history for players with 18 or more attempts. York Larese holds the school (and ACC) record, having gone 21-21 against Duke on Dec. 29, 1959. Brooks improved his career free throw percentage from 61.7 to 64.4 with the performance.

37. Sam Howell’s final season total for touchdown passes is the most by any ACC QB through 13 games and the most by a true freshman in NCAA history. Howell’s top targets all return and will be supplemented by Downs, who will push for playing time right away.

Jason Staples has covered college football since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter @DocStaples and check out more of his work at InsideCarolina.com.

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