ATLANTA — The team Georgia Tech fans have been waiting all ACC season to see finally showed up Sunday night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, as the Yellow Jackets routed North Carolina 78-58.
The win is their first of the conference campaign, coming on the heels of back-to-back road losses at Boston College and Clemson. It also is the Yellow Jackets’ fourth-straight over North Carolina. They beat the Tar Heels three times last season.
Many of the things that haven’t gone the Yellow Jackets (8-8, 1-2 ACC) way this season — poor shooting and poor defense chief among them — came off without a hitch Sunday.
In addition to enjoying one of their better shooting performances of the season, the Yellow Jackets’ interior defense was firm, limiting North Carolina’s (12-5, 2-1) team-leading scorer Tyler Zeller to just nine. The 7-footer was a non-factor much of the night.
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets were paced by junior guard Iman Shumpert, who led all scorers with a season-high 30 points; his same total at North Carolina last season. Close behind was sophomore guard Glen Rice, Jr., who had 24.
Twelve of Georgia Tech’s last 17 baskets were scored by the tandem.
Shumpert was a big sparkplug on that end of the floor, keying various Georgia Tech runs, including one first-half stretch in which the Yellow Jackets scored 10 unanswered.
With about 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Shumpert was on the receiving end of an alley-oop from fellow guard Brian Oliver. As he caught the pass, Shumpert threw down a two-handed dunk that brought the large crowd to its feet. Seconds later, on Georgia Tech’s next offensive possession, he stopped in a corner and drained a 3-pointer that got the arena even louder.
In addition to Shumpert’s exploits, much of the game was marked by the Tar Heels’ inability to get the ball through the hoop.
Shooting just 11-for-33 in the half, North Carolina found scoring difficult. It took five-and-a-half minutes before the Tar Heels even made their first shot from the field. Hampering those efforts was North Carolina’s starting 5, which went scoreless during its first two turns on the floor together.
As they’ve done all season, the Tar Heels employed a complete 10-man rotation at times, with a fresh backup line coming in to replace the starters.