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Off the cuff: The Tar Heels, after an impressive win at Georgia Tech, still have a chance to make it into the top four of the ACC with a game left at home vs. Duke.

The Blue Devils have been playing better than the Tar Heels since that 92-90 Carolina loss at Duke a couple of weeks ago. But this game should give the Heels some confidence going into the regular season finale.

Carolina has lacked an outside shooting alternative to Marcus Paige. But freshman Joel Berry, who was injured part of the season, hit three triples and scored a season-high 15 points.

If he can build on that, the Tar Heels will be a tough out in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. If, however, his shooting falters and Brice Johnson can't be consistent (he was one of nine in this game after scoring 22 the game before), then the Tar Heels will have early exits.

UNC is chasing Louisville for the fourth spot in the league. If Carolina beats Duke and Louisville loses its final two games to Virginia and Notre Dame, ranked first and third in the league, the Heels will get the fourth spot. Even if Louisville beats Notre Dame but loses to Virginia, the Tar Heels will win the tie-breaker for fourth going into the ACC tourney.

Tar Heels 81, Georgia Tech 49
Good times for Heels in rout over GT

Everybody got to play and contribute in a rout at Georgia Tech on senior night as North Carolina never trailed in an 81-49 victory to set up a regular season finale at home against rival Duke Saturday. (3/3)

"It was a good time," UNC captain Marcus Paige said as he pointed to Joel Berry scoring a career-high and team-leading 15 points and several players seeing action for the first time in a long time and one seeing action for the first time.

Theo Pinson has been out for 10 games but got to play late in the game, scoring five points. Stilman White has been injured for much of the season but he got some action, securing a rebound. Finally, Spenser Dalton, who was called up from the JV squad just this week, picked up a steal.

Dalton, a junior, had been practicing with the short-handed varsity and UNC coach Roy Williams rewarded him with a promotion.

Senior Luke Davis had been out the entire season with a foot injury but even he got some action late.

On the other side, however, Georgia Tech lost leading scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt to a foot injury in the first few minutes of the game.

"I think they ran out of gas," Coach Williams said. "We just had more bodies than they did."

It was just a five-point game eight minutes in, even after the Jackets had turned it over on five straight possessions.

That's when Berry, who himself missed several games with an injury, took over. First he drove by defenders for a layup to put the Heels up 14-7. Fewer than four minutes later, Berry sank back-to-back threes to open the game up a bit at 24-11 with 8:07 left in the half.

"Joel's making threes was big for us," Coach Williams said. "That little spurt was the most important part of the game."

With under two minutes left in the half, Berry hit a three from the right side, right in front of the UNC bench, to give Carolina its largest first-half lead at 39-19.

The Heels forced 11 turnovers in the first half and scored 21 points off them to take a 39-21 halftime lead.

It never got closer again. Paige hit a three with 5:35 to go to give Carolina its biggest lead to that point at 66-42. The final score was the largest lead of the game as Pinson swished a three with 23 seconds to go.

The Tar Heels shot 53 percent compared to just 33 peercent for the Yellow Jackets. Carolina hit six of 18 threes while Georgia Tech managed just one in 16 attempts.

Charles Mitchell led the Jackets, now 12-18, with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Justin Jackson was the only other Tar Heel in double figures with 13 points as seven other Tar Heels scored at least six points.

The Tar Heels, now 21-9 and 11-6 in the ACC, blocked eight shots and picked up 11 steals.

Williams said his team is playing hard. "If we get beat it won't be because of a letdown," he said. "We won a basketball game tonight and we've got a big one coming up."

Saturday at 9 pm, the Carolina hosts Duke on senior night as fans say goodbye to Tar Heel seniors Jackson Simmons, Luke Davis, Desmond Hubert and Sasha Seymore.


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