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February 18, 2013

Tar Heels Look to Soar in Atlanta

North Carolina put on a scoring frenzy over the weekend, facing the toughest defense in the ACC in Virginia and defeating the Cavaliers 93-81 Saturday afternoon.

P.J. Hairston led the way for the Tar Heels, scoring 29 points and hitting six three pointers.

Hairston has poured in the points for North Carolina (17-8, 7-5) in his first two games since joining the starting lineup, scoring a combined 52 points at Duke and back at home against UVa.

With the Tar Heels back on the winning track, North Carolina is down in Atlanta Tuesday evening to face Georgia Tech (14-10,4-8). UNC won this years' first meeting between the two teams 79-63 in January.

When the Yellow Jackets came into Chapel Hill, Brian Gregory and his team were the last winless squad in the ACC, with the loss to UNC dropped Tech at that time to 0-5.

Now the Yellow Jackets are 4-8 in ACC play, having played improved basketball over the past month

On Saturday, the Yellow Jackets defeated Wake Forest for the second time this year in a 57-56 narrow win.

The frontcourt completely dominated the Deacons, as Marcus Georges-hunt led the way with 16 points for the Yellow Jackets.

Even though North Carolina holds a 48-22 overall advantage all-time against the Yellow Jackets, Georgia Tech has taken down the Tar Heels multiple times in Atlanta over the years.

In fact, Georgia Tech has won six of the last seven games down in Atlanta over the Tar Heels, with the only loss over that stretch coming in 2008.

The Tar Heels will have alternating home and away games down the stretch, and they're in a position where they don't really have a lot of expendable losses as they look to secure a spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Wednesday's tipoff is set for 9:00pm eastern time on ESPN3.


STICKING WITH SMALL LINEUP?


As the Tar Heel faithful has seen, Roy Williams has started the last two games with a smaller lineup, inserting P.J. Hairston for Desmond Hubert.

This has allowed the Tar Heels to have more offensive power by stretching the defense and being faster on the break, while still being able to compete on both the offensive and defensive glass.

Hairston has had seven or more rebounds the past two games, while North Carolina has held its own on the boards against both Duke and Virginia.

Georgia Tech's Gregory knows that ever since the change has occurred, the Tar Heels have been a dangerous team that seems to be coming around at the right time.

Gregory talked about the Tar Heels and their recent switch in the starting lineup in Monday's teleconference.

"They (UNC) have played extremely well the last few games that they have gone to that smaller lineup. Yeah, it's a difficult matchup, and it is for just about anybody. Number one, even if you put a guard on P.J. or (Reggie) Bullock, those are two of the best offensive rebounders around, so they can just bully guys off."

Gregory continued talking about how Georgia Tech will have to defend the Tar Heels.

"You have to be able to defend on the perimeter, and that means you're going to have to have your big guys stay active and make sure that they don't -- big guys have a tendency to keep getting stuck towards the rim when they are off the ball and if you do that, you're going to give a wide open shot."

North Carolina will need all its players to rebound well against the Yellow Jackets, as Georgia Tech out-rebounded the Tar Heels in the last matchup 48-42.

As mentioned, the Yellow Jackets frontcourt is the strong point on this team, with talented young players including Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter, along with the veterans Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey.

Hosley led the team in the first matchup against UNC with 18 points, while Georgia Tech was never able to get on track from the field, shooting only 36 percent.

North Carolina will look to recreate the same defensive stand as they did in January, but Roy Williams will look to have a little more success on the boards, making sure the Yellow Jackets don't get 16 offensive rebounds like in the first matchup.

Knowing Georgia Tech, Williams will make no promises on who will start or who will receive more minutes, as he mentioned on Monday morning.

"A lot of it is too complicated to talk about," Williams said.

"P.J. was getting good minutes, and the last two games, and it just happened to coincide with games that he started. We decided to shorten our lineup a little bit, shorten the substitutions."

"We may go back and start playing 10, 11 guys in the first half like we did for a long time there if the matchups are different."

Williams later reiterated about the possible switch, based on what each team does against the Tar Heels and what might be the better matchup for UNC.

"But a lot of it depends on match-ups and what the other team does and a lot of that kind of stuff that would determine if we keep our lineup shortened, if you'll let me use that terminology."


MCADOO WORKING THROUGH SLUMP


One might say that James Michael McAdoo has been in a slump as of late, scoring in single digits the past three games.

From the field, McAdoo has gone 11 of 34 in the past three games.

With McAdoo being the top threat down low for the Tar Heels, UNC will need him to get going down the stretch.

McAdoo can use his quickness by stepping out and going by his man towards the basket, which he did against Mason Plumlee when UNC faced Duke.

The outside shot hasn't been falling as of late for McAdoo, but if the Tar Heels can score like they did against Virginia, much of the pressure could be taken off the Norfolk sophomore.

Against Virginia, four of the UNC starters scored in double figures, while McAdoo was one point shy of a double-double.

With offensive balance such as on Saturday, teams will not be able to always focus on McAdoo.

However, McAdoo will be looked upon Tuesday night to have a bounce back game against Georgia Tech's tall and athletic front line.

Each team will have their mismatches against each other, with Georgia Tech having a backcourt that has been struggling all throughout the year, while if Williams starts the usual small lineup, North Carolina will have to defend the interior of the Yellow Jackets with less length.

"It (going smaller) causes us problems, but hopefully it causes them problems, as well," Williams replied. "I think you've got to go with what you feel more comfortable with at that time."

"I think over 40 minutes it's hard for P.J. to guard a 6-8, 6-9 guy for 40 minutes. We understand that part. But also it might be hard for them to guard him."

With the regular season winding down---UNC has just six more conference games---seeding for the ACC tournament will be coming into play.

Naturally North Carolina will be looking to get into the top four of the league, getting the first round bye and avoiding a game on Thursday. That would also solidify its postseason chances beyond the ACC Tournament.

But Tuesday night is the kind of game they can't afford to drop.

Given Georgia Tech's recent track record of success against UNC in Atlanta, combined with that team's recent improved play and Carolina's struggles all year to win away from Chapel Hill, and it's abundantly clear that this isn't a game to be taken lightly.





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