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Off the cuff: Alex Stepheson, playing in front of his father for the first time this season, looked focused and energized. It was clearly his best effort of the season and his 21 minutes were needed with Deon Thompson slowed by a bad knee. Thompson played nine minutes in the first half but sat out the second half because he felt he was hurting the team with his slow play.

Ok, I'm officially tired of the Verizon Wireless radio commercial, especially because it portrays a Carolina "staffer" as an ass. In the ad, an excitable Carolina fan introduces himself to the Tar Heels' "scouting director" and offers to help call in information on players. The Carolina staffer asks if he can get reception in Alaska. When the thrilled fan says yes, the "scouting director" says "Then call me from You Gotta Be Kidding Me High School." Rude. A Carolina person would not act like that to a fan. If they did, it would be the last time.

It's midway through February so it's down-the-stretch time. It's time for Lawson to get back in the lineup. Surely he has to be healthy but if he comes in right at the end of the season, there will be chemistry problems. The Heels play totally different with him in the lineup and they need to get some continuity going into tournament play.

It was good to see production off the bench with Green and especially Graves but I'm not sure the Heels want to go into the stretch run with Mike Copeland playing 15 minutes. He played well with a bucket on his only attempt, two blocks, four rebounds and two assists. But UNC needs to get guys well so that he doesn't have to play that much at this point in the season.

At the preseason ACC media event, I voted for Tech's Jeff Allen as the rookie of the year. He has been solid but he did not play well against the Heels as he went only two of eight and turned the ball over six times. Tech committed 21 total turnovers while Carolina had nearly as many as they turned it over 19 times.

Heels 92, Hokies 53
Carolina takes a break from barn burner finishes

With three of the last four games going down to the wire, North Carolina's 92-53 blow-out victory over Virginia Tech was a welcome relief to fans and those Tar Heels nursing injuries. (2/16)

Ty Lawson sat out his fourth game in a row. Deon Thompson came into the game with a sore knee but played (nine minutes). Danny Green came into the game having suffered from the flu and played (21 minutes). Marcus Ginyard came into the game with turf toe and a sore ankle but played. Quentin Thomas came into the game with a sore back and played. And Tyler Hansbrough came into the game with an infected toe but played. Boy, did he play.

Hansbrough scored 23 points and pulled down nine rebounds. In the first minute of the game, he set the tone by sinking an eight-footer and then coming up with a steal on one end and driving the length of the court for a layup.

Rebounding, especially offensive rebounds, was one big difference as the Tar Heels outrebounded the Hokies 54-24. Alex Stepheson was key inside as he came off the bench to haul in nine rebounds (six offensive), swat a couple of blocks and score a career-high tying 11 points.

Early in the game, Stepheson followed up a Carolina miss with a dunk and then hustled back on defense to block a shot.

Others who came off the bench to contribute included Will Graves, who scored 10, and Green, who scored 12 and got seven rebounds.

While some of the success can be attributed to Carolina's good half-court defense, Virginia Tech was colding shooting. The Hokies were only four of 18 in three-point attempts and finished just 14 of 54 for 26 percent shooting from the field.

Coach Roy Williams said it was the best the Tar Heels have played half-court defense and the best they have played half-court offense. Of course when Lawson is in the lineup the game tempo is very different and there is less half-court play.

The Tar Heels got out to a quick 6-0 to start the game and worked the lead to 13 at 22-9 midway through the first half on a running leaner in the lane by Green. A Graves three-pointer put the Heels up 29-13 and prompted a timeout by Virginia Tech with less than six minutes to go until halftime.

Things only got better for Carolina as they scored on seven of their last eight possessions of the first half to open the lead to 20 at 43-23 at the half. During that stretch, Thomas, who had been sporadic with his ball-handling, took over. First, he drove by defenders and put down a left-handed jam and then, with a couple of seconds left, he made a nifty dish to Stepheson who scored at the buzzer.

In the second half, Carolina picked up where it left off and went on an 18-7 run which included a fast break drive and bucket by Green which prompted a standing ovation.

By the midway point of the second half, any doubt at all was erased when Ellington, who shot well and finished with 19 points, drained a three to put the Heels up 70-32. The largest lead was 47 points at 92-45 at which time all the starters were out of the game. The UNC subs, basically the third team, were outscored 8-0 over the last four minutes.

The Tar Heels advance to 24-2 and 9-2 in the ACC while Virginia Tech falls to 14-11 and 5-6 in the conference.

Malcolm Delaney led the Hokies with 20 points.

Check out the game box score and a game photo gallery.
Take a look at other game articles.
Read my Tar Heels' season preview on WRAL.com by clicking here.

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