Heels Escape Atlanta

Heels Escape Atlanta

ATLANTA – Defensive stops were a rarity in No. 1 North Carolina's 83-82 rousing victory over Georgia Tech, but Danny Green's block of a Zack Peacock close-range field goal attempt with six seconds remaining sealed the Tar Heels' 18th straight win and their first victory in Atlanta since 2001.

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The New York junior received plenty of help from Tyler Hansbrough on that last-second stand, leading to mass confusion in the media room during the aftermath. Head coach Roy Williams indicated that Hansbrough blocked the shot in his postgame press conference and both players thought they each got a hand on the attempt, before photo evidence confirmed that Green was the protagonist.

"It was me, but Tyler came behind and helped, and the guy had to bring it around his head," Green said, who also hit a free throw to break an 82-82 tie with 23 seconds left. "He brought around his head and it made him alter his shot, and [we] got a block."

Regardless, the effort marked one of the few times all night that North Carolina (18-0, 3-0) put enough defensive pressure on the ball to force Georgia Tech (7-9, 0-3) into an uncomfortable situation.

The Yellow Jackets capitalized on 10 offensive rebounds to score 12 second-chance buckets in the first 20 minutes alone, en route to shooting 51.3 percent from the floor (5-of-12 on 3-pointers). North Carolina matched their opponent by connecting on 55.9 percent of their own field goal attempts, building a 48-46 halftime margin.

But the Tar Heels missed seven of their first nine shots after the break, and Georgia Tech jumped out to a 63-56 lead with 13:34 remaining. That's when junior wing Marcus Ginyard finally had enough with the defensive struggles, converting two steals into fast break dunks in the next four minutes to help close the margin to 68-67.

"I was trying to get them in the mindset that we've got to put our foot down now," Ginyard said. "We've got to stop them for the rest of the game… It was just something that I was trying to do to get out there and show them that just a little extra effort could put us over the top."

The Yellow Jackets shot 45.2 percent (33-of-73) on the evening, while pulling 17 offensive rebounds. Jeremis Smith (15 points, seven rebounds), Gani Lawal (13 points, six offensive rebounds) and Peacock (14 points, 11 rebounds) troubled the Tar Heels in the post, and when the wings dropped down to help out, Georgia Tech was able to take advantage of some open looks outside.

North Carolina finished at 47.6 percent (30-of-63), while narrowly winning the rebounding battle, 40-38. Hansbrough led all scorers with 27 points (13-of-15 from the free-throw line) and added 11 rebounds. In four career games against the Yellow Jackets, the All-American is averaging 26.8 points and has connected on 49-of-61 free throw attempts. Sophomore point guard Ty Lawson added 13 points and five assists.

"It was a great effort physically by both teams," Williams said. "I told [Georgia Tech head coach] Paul [Hewitt], ‘It's no consolation, but I feel lucky right now."

North Carolina's offensive output should come as no surprise, seeing as how Georgia Tech entered the programs' 79th meeting holding down the ACC cellar in the three key defensive categories – scoring defense (73.1), field goal percentage defense (45.3 percent) and 3-point field percentage defense (36.1 percent). But the Yellow Jackets' countless open looks from the perimeter and in the paint only serve to facilitate increasing concern over the Tar Heels' defensive capabilities.

Williams, however, expected an intense battle when his squad took the Alexander Memorial Coliseum floor on Wednesday night.

"I thought they would play really well tonight, regardless, because when you start out 0-2 on the road in this league and you come home, there's a sense of urgency, I think, that you're kids really feel," Williams said.

The Tar Heels return home to face Maryland at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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