January 16, 2010

UNC feels the sting of the Jackets

CHAPEL HILL-- Georgia Tech came out with their guns blazing on Saturday afternoon facing a talented #12 North Carolina squad on the road. The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first half. The Tar Heels stormed back in the second half as the Yellow Jackets battled foul trouble. Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert led the Jackets to victory with 30 points as Tech edged the Heels 73-71.

"I give a lot of credit to our players especially the way they played down the stretch," Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said after the game. "I felt like we played with a lot of intensity last Saturday and played with some intensity on Wednesday night, but it was not enough and Virginia played with more. Today our guys played with more. They made plays down the stretch. It was not about X's and O's, it was about making plays. North Carolina made some great plays and we responded. It is great to come out of here with a win."

The win in Chapel Hill was the first road win in the Dean Smith Center for Georgia Tech since 1996. Hewitt was especially impressed with Shumpert's performance.

"He is getting healthy," Hewitt said of his star guard. "The knee injury robbed him of some flow and he was not playing fluid basketball. Today you could see he is getting healthier and healthier. His play is not quite where I want it, but it was a great experience getting this win."

The Jackets led 42-28 at the half without the benefit of a free throw attempt. Shumpert had 17 points including three three-pointers in the first half. He ended the game with 30 points, six assists and three steals.

"Coach told us before the game that we had not won here in a long time," he said. "He said we have some frustration coming off the loss and we need to be more mad about losing to Virginia than they were about losing to Clemson, I think we matched their intensity pretty well."

Coming out of the half the Jackets had their first free throw attempt, but Derrick Favors got in foul trouble less than 20 seconds after the second half began when he swung his elbow out during a rebound. Forward Brian Oliver was also in foul trouble for most of the game.

"I did not talk to them when they got in foul trouble," forward Gani Lawal said of the two freshmen forwards. "They know what they need to do. They have been in that situation before and I talked to them then. We are at North Carolina now and I do not consider them freshmen anymore

The Tar Heels cut the Yellow Jacket lead to four points with less than eight minutes to go in the game with some hot three-point shooting and a strong inside game. The jackets led 60-56 with 7:37 to go in the game. Favors hit the front end of a one and one to give Tech a 61-56 lead. Shumpert had a break away jam to extend the lead to 63-58 with 6:31 to go. North Carolina cut the lead to two with less than five minutes to go as the Jackets struggled shooting the ball. North Carolina took the lead on a three by Will Graves. Oliver gave the lead back with a fade away jumper. Marcus Ginyard had a nice reverse layup to give North Carolina a 66-65 lead. D'Andre Bell answered with a clutch jumper. Will Graves hit a three with less than a minute to go to give the Tar Heels a 69-67 lead. The North Carolina crowd finally came to life after the volley of baskets.

Shumpert had a chance to tie the game at the free line but he missed his first attempt. He hit the second to cut the Tar Heel lead to one point with 1:30 to go. Favors forced a jump ball to give Tech the ball with 1:06 to go trailing 69-68. Zachery Peacock hit Shumpert on a backdoor bounce pass and Shumpert was fouled going to the hoop. He hit both free throws giving Tech a 70-69 lead with 0:53 to go. #43 hit a hook shot with 40 seconds to go to give North Carolina a 71-70. Hewitt called a timeout with 35.7 seconds left. Peacock hit a runner in the lane with his left hand to give Tech a 72-71 lead. The Jackets forced a miss and Oliver came up with the rebound. D'Andre Bell went to the line with 3.4 seconds to go. Bell missed the first free throw, but hit the second to give Tech a 72-71 lead. The Tar Heels got to midcourt with 1.7 seconds left when they called a timeout. North Carolina missed a desperation three to lose 73-71.

Hewitt sees the win as a little redemption for the team and a part of the growing process for freshmen like Oliver.

"We have a good team. It is a matter of them understanding. We are dealing with young guys. We have four freshmen and two sophomores in the top six rotation. Especially the freshmen like Brian Oliver, he is very talented, but I don't think he understands how hard you have to play at this level," Hewitt said after the game. "The Virginia game was a big eye-opener for him. He came off a nice game against Duke, and then Virginia they jumped him right out of the door. I saw in practice the last couple of days he had a much more serious presence to him when he got on the floor. The shot he made at the end of the game is indicative of his talent, but in order for him to be on the floor he has to do other things."

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