“Their crowd was really into it, and they came to play,” said Tyler Hansbrough, who led Carolina with 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. “In the ACC, it doesn't matter who it is or where it is, you always have to play hard. I think at times we had some letdowns that hurt us.”
Prior to their game-ending surge, the Tar Heels were shooting just 36 percent from the floor, and trailed in the plus-or-minus 20-point range for much of the second half.
“We started to make some baskets down the stretch, but it was too little too late to say the least,” Roy Williams said. “I believe I didn’t do a good job of getting the team ready or with the intensity that we had to play with. It started out so easy the first couple of possessions, then, all of a sudden, we started to turn the ball over.
There was nothing sluggish about the start for UNC (15-2, 2-1 ACC), which literally scored off the opening tip on a Reyshawn Terry dunk. The Tar Heels led by eight points on two occasions, the last at 21-13 lead with 13:07 to play in the first half.
But Tech (13-4, 3-0) recovered quickly with a 17-0 run and then streaked to the locker room ahead, 47-37; having hit 6-of-9 three-pointers.
There would be no silencing of the sold out (9,847) crowd, and the rest of the way, everything the Hokies shot seemed to get sucked through the net. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels showed no characteristics of the offensive juggernaut they had been in previous games.
For the game, Tech scored 19 fast break points to Carolina’s seven. Tech scored 20 points off turnovers to Carolina’s 13. Tech’s bench outscored Carolina’s, 36-23. And Carolina missed 13 free throws.
Zabian Dowdell scored 23 points and his backcourt mate Jamon Gordon added 17, as the Hokies led by as many as 23 at one point. With 3:36 to play in the game, they still held a commanding 83-64 advantage.
VT coach Seth Greenberg said, “After the first four minutes, we did a terrific job – until the last four minutes – of getting back and setting our defense. Coleman Collins did a terrific job of making it hard for Hansbrough to catch the ball. The job Collins did defensively, and doing his work early defensively, was magnificent. He got great help. You see how explosive North Carolina is.”
True to its tradition, Carolina clawed back into the game and outscored the Hokies 24-11 the rest of the way. The once deafening audience began to get antsy.
Utilizing his stash of timeouts and the late-game strategies revolutionized by his mentor, Dean Smith, Williams orchestrated another near Carolina miracle in the game’s final minutes.
Following a free throw by Dowdell, the Tar Heels – which got to within three points moments before – had possession of the basketball behind just four with 14 seconds to play. Ty Lawson (16 points, six assists, three steals) penetrated the lane but had to kick the ball back out to Danny Green, who then was forced to launch a quick shot from the top of the key that missed the mark.
As time ran out, Tech fans stormed the court in jubilation
“This is a great day for Virginia Tech basketball,” Williams said.
The Tar Heels will try and regroup in time for Wednesday night’s game at Clemson (17-1, 3-1), which lost for the first time this season to Maryland on Saturday, 92-87.
* Injury Note: Bobby Frasor's day ended early, as he was sidelined after playing only six minutes and did not return. "He tweaked his foot again. We don't know and I'm not encouraged. Hopefully it's not worse for Bobby because he's such a great kid."