Quick turnaround: Tar Heels hit the road to take on Hokies
This is no time for North Carolina to be making too much of a four-game winning streak that appears to have the No. 15 Tar Heels back on track.
They’ve got another game Monday night (7 p.m., ESPN), with a quick turnaround taking them to meet Virginia Tech at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.
“It’s tough, but it’s part of ACC play,” North Carolina guard Joel Berry II said, referring to the Saturday-to-Monday stretch.
The Tar Heels (16-4, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have been on an upswing after a pair of conference road losses.
Virginia Tech (13-6, 2-4) has lost back-to-back games for the second time since the start of its conference schedule. The fluctuating results have been frustrating for Hokies coach Buzz Williams.
“I think we’ve got a team good enough to beat any team the rest of the season and I think we’ve got a team that’s good enough to get beat by any team the rest of the season,” he said.
Hokies junior guard Justin Robinson is coming off a career-best 26-point outing in a 91-82 home loss to Florida State on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the grind of the season is something the Tar Heels have come to embrace. They’ve been challenged in the second half of their last three games, including a one-point escape at Notre Dame in their most recent road assignment.
“It is hard to get wins in the ACC,” North Carolina senior Theo Pinson said. “When you have a winning streak like this, you just want to keep it going. Know every night is going to be a battle. We have a quick turnaround. We have a big-time game on Monday night against Virginia Tech.”
North Carolina has established itself again as one of the country’s top rebounding teams despite lacking a major post presence. In Saturday’s 80-66 victory against Georgia Tech, the Tar Heels held a 46-25 rebounding advantage.
At the offensive end, that resulted in a season-high 26 second-chance points. That helped offset 42.2 percent shooting from the field, a mark that reflected the second-worst shooting rate in a North Carolina victory this season.
“Hopefully we’ll shoot the ball better because I think we could possibly be as good of a shooting team as I’ve ever had but we didn’t show it (against Georgia Tech),” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
Senior guard Joel Berry was one of the players with shooting woes, going 3-for-17 from the field Saturday. But made a career-high nine free throws (on 10 attempts) and matched a career-best with eight rebounds.
Virginia Tech has been outrebounded in five of its six ACC games, with double-digit rebounding margins in three of those games.
The Hokies will hope to benefit from an energized environment for North Carolina’s visit. It has been designated a “black-out” with fans encouraged to wear black.
For the Virginia Tech team, the focus is on trending in the right direction.
“Regardless of who we play, we know we have to improve,” Buzz Williams said. “I’ve got to help (our players) figure out how so that defensively we can get some stops. ... I think North Carolina is maybe as good as any team we’ve played. We’ve got to figure out something so we can be better defensively.”