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Off the cuff: Carolina improved from an ugly performance against Virginia to merely a "not pretty" game against Virginia Tech.

After getting down by 16 in the first half, the Tar Heels went on a 9-0 run at the end of the first half to cut the margin to seven.

That stretch may have saved the game for the Heels. The run was highlighted by a pair of bank shots by freshman Kendall Marshall and an alley-oop pass from Marshall to John Henson for a dunk.

Virginia Tech had hit six threes, including five without a miss, but the Hokies did not score over the last six minutes of the half. Despite the Hokies having had a big lead and leading by seven, the game felt even. You just knew it was going to get closer.

Still, it took the Heels more than 10 minutes into the second half before they got the lead. It went back and forth before an 8-0 Carolina run put the Heels up 55-52 with 3:14 to go.

Harrison Barnes had his best stretch of the game with five of those eight points. The other three came on an unlikely triple from Marshall who swished it from out front.

Marshall wasn't the leading scorer but he was the leader and he seems well on his way to displacing starting point guard Larry Drew II. Marshall had nine points and nine assists without a turnover. Plus, he played 24 minutes as compared to 16 for Drew.

Tar Heels 64, Virginia Tech 61
Heels come from 16 down to win

North Carolina survived a storm of threes and came from 16 points down to defeat Virginia Tech 64-61 at home. (1/13)

It was a slow start for the Tar Heels as they got down 12-2 in the first five minutes and 25-10 in the first 10 minutes. The Hokie lead got up to 16, behind six threes including five by Malcolm Delaney, before the Heels started to chip away and trailed just 31-24 at the half.

After being the less aggressive team and the mor careless team, UNC coach Roy Williams said he "felt great" about the seven-point deficit. Virginia Tech got the lead up to 10 at 39-29 early in the second half but then the Tar Heels methodically eased back in it.

A modest 6-0 run, capped by a nifty Kendall Marshall touch pass to John Henson who whipped it to Tyler Zeller inside for two, got the lead down to 40-37 with 12:10 left in the game.

Carolina took its first lead since 2-0 when Marshall passed to Henson for a driving dunk to make it 43-42 with 9:32 to go.

The lead went back and forth and it was tied at 52-all with just over three minutes to go. Harrison Barnes, who Coach Williams said had stunk it up until late in the game, sank a three from the left corner to put Carolina up 55-52. But Carolina couldn't hold the lead and a Delaney fastbreak lay in put the Hokies up 56-55 with 2:38 left.

Zeller scored on one end to put the Heels up 57-56 and then drew a charge on VT's Jeff Allen on the other end. Barnes drilled a long three with 1:30 left to give UNC a 60-56 cushion.

Delaney pushed Dexter Strickland away and stepped back for a three with 47 seconds left to cut the margin to one at 62-61. After taking some time off the clock, Zeller missed a short hook and Virginia Tech had a chance to win it.

But the Hokies, who had lived by the three, died by the three when Delaney, covered by Marshall, missed a three from straightaway with six seconds left. Carolina got the rebound and Marshall was fouled. He hit both free throws with 2.8 seconds left before Strickland caught the inbounds pass up near midcourt to end the game.

While the free throws were big at the end, Carolina almost lost the game from the foul line as the Heels had their worst foul shooting of the season, going just seven of 17. Carolina also shot only 41 percent of its field goals and 24 percent of its three-point attempts. The Heels did hold a 13-rebound edge and put in 19 second chance points.

Delaney led Virginia Tech, now 10-5, with 28 points. The Hokies, already shorthanded by injuries, had foul trouble and minutes lost to players' cramping.

Henson led Carolina with 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Zeller had 16 points and nine rebounds and Barnes finished with 12. While not getting double figures, Marshall may have been the sparkplug as he had nine points, nine assists and no turnovers off the bench.

Carolina, now 12-4 and 2-0 in the ACC, plays at Georgia Tech Sunday.

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