In front of 9,847 screaming fans hungry for an upset, Tyler Hansbrough calmly converted a pair of free throws to give the Tar Heels a four-point cushion with nine seconds left.
After a layup by Tech's Winton Witherspoon and subsequent free throw by Marcus Ginyard made it a three-point game, the Hokies did get off one last potential game-tying attempt with 0.4 seconds left. But Deron Washington’s turnaround heave from near the sideline bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim as the final horn sounded.
“It was a heck of a basketball game for us,” Roy Williams said. “It’s weird to look at the stat sheet and how you can win with 25 turnovers You want to win and get out of town as fast as you can in this league.”
With senior David Noel saddled much of the game with foul trouble, Hansbrough’s 20 points led all scorers as Carolina (10-2, 2-0 ACC) defeated the Hokies (10-6, 0-3) for the 18th consecutive time in the series.
“I’m proud of those guys that stepped it up,” Noel said. “Some games it’s going to be that way and it’s going to be up to those guys to pull us through.”
Hansbrough, who extended his streak to 21 consecutive free throws made at one point in the game, connected on 6-of-8 shots from the floor and 8-of-9 from the line.
“I feel great,” Hansbrough said. “Obviously any ACC win on the road is huge. Tonight was really big with the crowd the way it was, and it was a crucial win for us.”
Noel, who played just 19 minutes, was the only other UNC player in double figures, scoring 10.
Reyshawn Terry struggled mightily, going 1-for-7 from the floor before heating up late to score seven of his nine points when his team needed it the most. His dunk, three-pointer and then two free throws with 4:04 to play put Carolina up 56-52, for a lead it would never relinquish.
Yet, there was little aesthetically pleasing about the Tar Heels’ triumph, although they did manage to shoot 63 percent in the second half – when they weren’t throwing the ball away.
As in their win over N.C. State on Saturday, the Tar Heels fell way behind to start the game. When Virginia Tech held its largest lead of the game at 19-9 with a little over 13 minutes left in the first half, UNC was fortunate to be down only 10, having already committed seven turnovers.
Williams was forced to do what he didn't do down 11-0 against the Wolfpack -- call a timeout to stop the bleeding.
“I was just so ticked off about those stupid turnovers,” he said. “We had five turnovers tonight just passing and catching the ball. They didn’t deflect it and they didn’t steal it; it was just passing and catching the ball.”
The strategy worked because 3:13 later the Tar Heels went ahead 20-19 on a jumper from Danny Green. UNC would close out the half on a 25-11 run, while holding the Hokies to just one field goal during the stretch.
And just like that, the Tar Heels came out sloppy to start the final period, prompting Williams to pull all five starters less than two minutes into the second half after they had surrendered the lead.
“We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball," Terry said. “[Coach Williams] basically just let us cool down and think about what we had done. It gave us some time to relax and get our heads back into it.”
“It was an ugly start to both halves,” added Williams. “I wasn’t that pleased with the guys that came in when I substituted those five guys, but at least it gave me a chance to jump on the five that started and try to get them refocused.”
UNC returns home to take on Miami (9-6, 1-1) Saturday at noon (ESPN2).