For the third straight game, North Carolina (12-5, 2-1) fell behind by double digits. Georgia Tech (8-8, 1-2) led 22-12 midway through the half, and just as they did against Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels were able to close the gap. A John Henson (11 points, five rebounds) tip narrowed the deficit to 33-32 at the break.
But North Carolina would not complete a comeback on this night. Georgia Tech scored the first seven points of the second half and later closed the evening on a 22-10 run to put the game out of reach.
The Tar Heels, who put three players in double digits -- Henson, Harrison Barnes (11 points) and Leslie McDonald (10 points) -- compiled the worst shooting percentage by a North Carolina squad since 1955. Their 27.6 percent (16-of-58) clip included a 5-for-25 shooting performance in the second half.
Georgia Tech shot 49.2 percent (32-of-65), led by 30 points from Iman Shumpert and 24 points from Glen Rice.
INSIDE THE GAME
Georgia Tech, whose early season woes included a 17-point lost to Kennesaw State, entered this game at the bottom of the conference in all four field goal percentage categories, ranking No. 12 in field goals, field goal defense, 3-point field goals and 3-point field goal defense. In response to the struggles, Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Hewitt pointed to Iman Shumpert and Glen Rice as the two players he could count on to produce.
The Tar Heels apparently didn't take notice.
Despite the advance warning, the duo scored 54 of the Yellow Jackets' 78 points, coming up just four points shy of outscoring North Carolina by themselves. Rice and Shumpert combined to make 22 of the 37 shots they took.
"Iman has played great," Roy Williams said of Shumpert, who also had 30 points against UNC last season in Chapel Hill. "He sees us and his eyes light up, I guess."
North Carolina offered little perimeter offense in response, countering Tech's 60 total points from its three starting guards with just 16 (on 4-of-18 shooting) from its three perimeter starters, including a total of five points from the backcourt of Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland.
And the difference wasn't made up by the Tar Heel frontcourt, either, which was supposed to have a decided advantage against the three freshman post players on the Georgia Tech roster.
The rebounding battle was even, 40-40, and Henson and Zeller struggled to find space inside, shooting 5-of-15.
"You look at our club and say we should have an advantage in the lane and then they (out)score (us) 38-22 in the lane," Williams said.
First Team vs. Second Team
North Carolina's five starters exited the game and the second five-man unit entered at the 17:11 mark in the first half with the Tar Heels trailing, 10-2. Nearly three minutes later, Kendall Marshall scored North Carolina’s first field goal and the Tar Heels began a surge, tying the game at 10-10, yet the starters then returned at the 12:08 mark and quickly surrendered the momentum that they received.
“I should have left them in there,” Williams admitted postgame.
By the time the starters returned to the bench with 9:10 remaining, the Tar Heels were again trailing, now 22-12.
The large turnout of Tar Heel fans in Alexander Memorial Coliseum greeted the reserves with a loud ovation.
Combine that 22-4 deficit by North Carolina's starting five in the first half, with the 7-0 run that unit surrendered to start the second half and UNC's coach was left "dumbfounded."
"At halftime usually there is something that we change to get better and tonight we made those changes and we didn’t come out with the enthusiasm and intensity that we needed,” Tyler Zeller said.