ATLANTA (AP) — RJ Davis scored 13 of his game-high 23 points in the second half Sunday afternoon as North Carolina pulled away after halftime to defeat Georgia Tech 79-62 in the ACC opener for both teams.
The game was tied 31-all at halftime, after UNC (6-2) overcame a nine-point deficit behind stingy defense. Georgia Tech (5-3) lost its second straight contest as senior guard Michael Devoe, who entered the game as the nation’s leading scorer with a 25-point average, was limited to 15 points on 6 of 13 shooting.
Freshman reserve guard Deebo Coleman scored 13 points for Tech, which also got 13 from senior wingman Khalid Moore.
North Carolina won with balance. Four players finished with double-figure scoring, including Caleb Love with 17 points while Armando Bacot pitched in with 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
UNC limited Tech to eight rebounds in the second half, and tightened up on defense. Tech took the lead for the final time when Devoe made two free throws with 15:46 left in the game for a 39-38 edge.
From there, the Tar Heels outscored the Yellow Jackets 22-5 in a sequence that included three 3-pointers by Davis and another by forward Brady Manek, an Oklahoma transfer.
Through that stretch, the Tar Heels were in Devoe's face, and pressuring all Tech ballhandlers without relent.
“I just thought we were really good defensively. With the exception of like a seven-minute stretch in the first half, I thought we guarded better than we’ve guarded all season . . . in the second half, we were fantastic,” said first-year UNC coach Hubert Davis.
“Leaky Black, it’s going to be hard to find somebody in the country that’s defending better than Leaky.”
Black harrassed Devoe and added five points.
Georgia Tech was the better team for much of the first half.
The Yellow Jackets built a nine-point lead on a steal and dunk by Moore with 8:43 remaining, but North Carolina outscored the Jackets 17-8 from there to even the score by halftime.
Devoe scored just six points over the first half as North Carolina made it difficult for him to receive the ball and generally double-teamed him any time he had ball inside of the 3-point line.
Davis, who is in his first season at the helm of the Tar Heels, had his team play mostly man-to-man defense and generally deployed guards Anthony Harris and Black on the Tech sharpshooter.
“I said in media day (before the season) that there’s not enough people talking about North Carolina . . . their guards are really good,” said Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, who was disappointed with his team's poor ball movement. “We had a couple times where I felt we over-dribbled, and were giving the ball a little bit of a headache.”
North Carolina: The Tar Heels warmed up in the second half largely because they started moving the ball around with greater urgency than in the first half.
Georgia Tech: The Jackets were erratic from start to finish on offense. They hit a respectable 46 percent of their shots, but didn’t find many good shots. The Jackets had just eight assists as a team.
The Georgia Tech crowd cheered during a timeout midway through the second half when it was announced in McCamish Pavilion that the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team had beaten Georgia 55-54 in Athens earlier on Sunday. The team took the floor during a time out late in the game, having just returned from Athens, and head coach Nell Fortner, who coached the US Women’s team to an Olympic gold medal in 2000, took a microphone on the court and rallied fans for having beaten Georgia Tech's most relevant rival.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels will next play Saturday, at home, against Elon.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets host LSU on Saturday.