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January 23, 2013

Jackets come to UNC needing win

North Carolina is heating up in ACC play after defeating Maryland last weekend and now look to improve to 3-2 in the league Wednesday night at home against Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets haven't exactly started out the way that Brian Gregory had in mind, as they're still looking for their first win in the conference against four losses.

But that doesn't mean Coach Williams is overlooking Georgia Tech, as he knows his team can't ever relax in the ACC.

"They're getting better. I've watched several game tapes and they have just continually improved," Williams said on Monday about the Yellow Jackets. "They've shown some improvement over the last three to four games in conference play. They have some parts there but they just haven't figured out how to put it all together."

It is true, Georgia Tech (10-6, 0-4) might be last in the ACC, but they certainly haven't played like it, as they went toe-to-toe with N.C. State in Raleigh for well over a half before the Wolfpack pulled away at the end.

The Yellow Jackets also lost to Virginia Tech in overtime, and led Duke at halftime before the Blue Devils took over in the second half.

The issue that Gregory is having might be finding the right combination of players on the floor.

Whether the team is just a little too young and ahead of its time, or all the pieces aren't quite there yet; this is a team that is improving every game and could prove to be dangerous against a young North Carolina (12-5, 2-2 ACC) squad still learning how to win themselves.

Gregory has a unique team, with the difference in experience a wider gap than any other in the ACC.

However, that might also get him fired up for what the future might hold.

Georgia Tech is led by its senior guard, Mfon Udofia, who has been trying to lead the team in the right direction by contributing 9.9 points per game, which ranks second on the squad.

However, if one was a Yellow Jacket fan, the bright spot on the team has to be the three freshman, which are not only contributing valuable minutes to the team, but also scoring in big numbers for Georgia Tech.

Marcus Georges-Hunt is a 6-5, 218 pound freshman that has been a huge contributor to the team, as he leads the team in points (10.7 per game), while shooting 42.5 percent from the field.

Not too far behind Georges-Hunt is the other big freshman at forward, Robert Carter, who is averaging 9.9 points per game (tied for second on the team with Udofia), while leading the Jackets with 6.7 rebounds a game.

Chris Bolden is also a nice complement at the guard spot, as he has averaged 20 minutes a game, while putting in almost six points an outing.

Bolden also received his first start last week against Duke, taking the place of Brandon Reed.

The strength of this team is undoubtedly its frontcourt, as its produces 43.2 of their 65 points the Yellow Jackets average a game.

The guard play for Gregory has been the area where his team has struggled, because outside of Udofia and Bolden, who combined average almost 15 points a game between them, there hasn't been anyone else who has provided consistent scoring along the perimeter.


Georgia Tech ranks at or near the bottom in several categories in the ACC.

Points per Game: 65.0 (10th)
Field Goal Percentage: 41.9% (12th)
Three-Point Percentage: 29.7% (12th)
Free Throw Attempts (%): 17.7 Attempts (11th)/ 64.0% (11th)



There are a few bright spots on this team that North Carolina will have to focus on if they want to win on Wednesday night.

Georgia Tech is ranked fourth in the ACC in total rebounds and third in offensive rebounds per game, so UNC will have to attack the boards, much as they did against Maryland, to keep the Jackets from dominating them in this category.

The Yellow Jackets are also ranked 26th nationally in total defense and 13th in field goal percentage, with N.C. State being the only team to clip the Jackets for 80 points (83 total points) and shoot over 50 percent in a game (50.9 percent).


FINDING A NEW IDENTITY?


Everyone knows that Coach Williams wants his team to play fast and up-tempo kind of basktball.

That has been evident throughout his decade in Chapel Hill, as UNC has led the nation in points per game a few times under his rein.

This year, just seems a little different.

UNC has gone from a team that scored at will in the beginning of the year, when it averaged almost 85 points per game, to a team that is working harder and harder on the defensive end.

In ACC play, UNC have averaged 60 points per game, while only giving up 63.3 points per game on defense, which has led to two straight victories and a chance to move even higher up the standings with a win over Tech.

It seems this is a team that is slowly cluing in on how defense should be played at a high level and that offense isn't the only way a team can in.

Leaders have been asked to step up for this team, as Williams mentioned earlier this week.

"But he's been the most consistent player by far, and I think probably the most consistent player with what he's said on the court and in the locker room," Williams replied about Reggie Bullock being a leader for this team.

"I think that he's done that, but it's not just been in the last two games or anything. I think it's developed over time. They still look to Dexter Strickland for leadership because of being a senior. They still look to James Michael McAdoo because of what he's accomplished. And as I said many times, Marcus Paige even as a freshman at the point guard spot, it's the leadership. But I think it's been a collective thing for everybody on our club. Recently we've played with great urgency."

But one has to wonder, what is the identity of this team?

Will it be more towards the offensive side of the ball or is this a team that can clamp down and become more of a defensive team?

If this team can be a mixture of both, UNC is a team that could make some noise when tournament time comes around.

But the Tar Heels have to take it a game at a time, because teams like Georgia Tech can be quite dangerous.

"It better not be," said Williams when asked if this game would be a hard one to get his team motivated since Georgia Tech is winless in the ACC. "It will be more than dangerous, it will be a loss."

UNC leads the series against Georgia Tech 61-24 and defeated the Yellow Jackets last year 93-81 Jan. 29, 2012 at the Dean Dome. Georgia Tech had won the previous four matchups, including a win in the 2010 ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Tip off will be at 9PM eastern time and will be aired on ESPN.



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