ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech might have to search long and hard to find something positive in Saturday’s lopsided loss to North Carolina. But at least the Yellow Jackets won’t have to wait long to get back on the court.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the next opponent is No. 9 Louisville, which will make its first ACC appearance at McCamish Pavilion at 7 p.m. on Monday. The Cardinals (21-6, 9-5 ACC) are coming off a 55-53 win over Miami.
Georgia Tech (12-15, 3-12) was swimming upstream all day in Chapel Hill. In addition to being outmanned by North Carolina’s talent, the Yellow Jackets had to battle against an emotion-filled arena. Not only was it UNC’s first home game since the death of legendary head coach Dean Smith, the Heels had lost four of their previous five games.
“It was an emotional game, and we knew they would come out fast and hard,” Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory said. “I thought we took that first punch and did a pretty good job in the midpoint of the first half of getting the game back under control. But in the last two rounds, the last eight minutes, they did a good job of extending it again.”
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Georgia Tech then had turnovers on five of its first six possessions in the second half. It didn’t take long for the Tar Heels to step on the gas and put the game away.
“You have to make shots against them, and obviously, we didn’t do that in the first (half),” Gregory said. “They played extremely well in a big day for the program, and we weren’t able to match it.”
It was only the second one-sided conference loss of the season for Georgia Tech. The Cardinals have not played well the past three weeks, going 2-3. The win over Miami snapped a two-game losing streak that came against N.C. State and Syracuse, two of the conference’s mid-level teams.
Louisville is best known for its athletic defense. Head coach Rick Pitino’s squad allows only 59.4 points per game, meaning every possession will be important for the Yellow Jackets.
Louisville has three players who average in double figures in scoring: Terry Rozier (18.0 points, 5.5 rebounds), Montrezl Harrell (15.4 points, 9.3 rebounds) and Wayne Blackshear (10.5 points).
Chris Jones was in that group, as well, but he was dismissed from the team Sunday, one day after he returned from a one-game suspension against Miami and joined Harrell in pressuring the ball against the Hurricanes.
Pitino wouldn’t comment on why Jones was dismissed from the team.
Louisville’s brand of defense almost ensures a low-scoring game. If that happens, the Yellow Jackets will need to shoot the ball with more authority than they did against North Carolina. Georgia Tech shot only 30.3 percent in the first half but improved to 48.1 percent in the second half.
The bright spot might have been the 10 points from Quinton Stephens, who had a pair of 3-pointers that temporarily kept the game close in the first half. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 15, but only four came in the second half, and he has been in double figures in nine straight games.