The loss marked the fourth straight for the Hokies, who fell to 9-19 overall, 2-14 in ACC play. North Carolina won its 11th straight game, moving to 22-7 overall, 12-4 in league play.
Tech out-rebounded the taller North Carolina Tar Heels, and the Hokies held star Tar Heel point guard and leading scorer Marcus Paige to nine points below his average. But the Hokies couldn’t string together enough points down the stretch to pull off the upset.
Four of Tech’s past five losses have been by seven points or less.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “They could have quit a long time ago. Lose nine straight [actually 10 before beating Miami on Feb. 15], and yet they come to practice every day and work hard. They do what we say to do. They come out and play and make adjustments in the strategy. They play 2-3 zone and slow the game down and go totally away from we’re trying to build and the way we want to play.
“For them to execute the game plan and keep fighting and competing, I’m just proud of the guys.”
North Carolina led for much of the game, but the Tar Heels’ biggest lead was only nine points, and they couldn’t pull away.
After trailing 28-21 at halftime, the Hokies tied the game once in the second half, knotting things at 36 after Devin Wilson’s 3-pointer with 12:16 remaining capped an 11-2 Virginia Tech run. But J.P. Tokoto hit a 3-pointer for the Tar Heels to end the run, and North Carolina did not trail again.
The Hokies cut the lead to 42-40 on a basket by Jarell Eddie with 8:54 remaining. But North Carolina answered again, this time with seven straight points. McAdoo scored the last two points on a basket with 6:57 left that gave the Tar Heels a 49-40 lead – their biggest of the game.
Tech cut the lead to 58-54 on a 3-pointer by Eddie with 40 seconds left, and then North Carolina’s Leslie McDonald missed two free throws with 35.8 seconds to go, giving the Hokies a chance to cut into the lead more. But Eddie missed a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left, and Michael McAdoo hit the first of two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to push the lead to 59-54.
An Eddie layup cut the lead to 59-56 with 5.6 seconds remaining, but McDonald made the second of two free throws with 4.8 seconds left to seal it for the Tar Heels.
“When we made our runs, they always seemed to have a guy make a play, whether it was McDonald, who hit a big 3, or [Marcus] Paige, who came off a screen and hit a shot, or McAdoo in the middle,” Johnson said. “They made plays, and they have several guys who can make them.”
“What’s happening at Virginia Tech now is just a snowball rolling down the hill,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “Things are going wrong for them every time you turn around. It’s unfortunate for them. James is a fantastic person and a big-time coach. They just need a couple of breaks. I’m glad it wasn’t against us, but they need a couple of breaks to get things going.”
The Hokies kept close tabs on Paige, but they couldn’t handle McAdoo, who hit 6 of 9 from the floor and 3 of 6 from the free-throw line for the Tar Heels. Coming off a 35-point outing in the Tar Heels’ win over NC State on Wednesday and leading the Tar Heels in scoring at 18.9 points per game, Paige scored just nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from the floor. He only dished out one assist in 30 minutes.
McAdoo, though, came up large down the stretch. He scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, including 10 in the final nine minutes.
The Tar Heels also got solid games from McDonald, who scored 14 points, and from Tokoto, who added 12. North Carolina shot just 41.8 percent (23 of 55) and got out-rebounded 34-33 by the Hokies.
Eddie hit 6 of 13 from the floor, including 3 of 9 from beyond the 3-point arc. He also grabbed seven rebounds. Wilson finished with 15 points and seven assists.
Tech returns to action next Tuesday night for a road game against Maryland. Tipoff time is slated for 8 p.m.
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