January 18, 2015
Cold shooting costly in Hokies' loss to Tar Heels
By Jimmy Robertson
Virginia Tech (8-9, 0-4 ACC) 213253
(15) North Carolina (14-4, 4-1 ACC) 343468
  • Smith Center, Chapel Hill - 19,745
  • High Points: 11 - Adam Smith
  • High Rebounds: 9 - Shane Henry

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina freshman Justin Jackson scored a game-high 16 points to lift the 15th-ranked Tar heels to a 68-53 ACC victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday night at the Dean E. Smith Center.

The Hokies fell to 8-9 overall, 0-4 in ACC play, and lost to North Carolina for the fifth straight time. The Tar Heels moved to 14-4, 4-1 in the ACC.

Playing without standout Justin Bibbs (team-high 15.6 ppg; 20.7 ppg in ACC games), who sat out the game after suffering a concussion in Friday’s practice, the Hokies shot just 35.8 percent from the floor and got beat 49-22 on the boards.

“I think Justin’s a good player, and Justin’s another guy that can pass, dribble, and shoot,” Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “Against their pressure, guys were playing more minutes than they typically do [because of Bibbs’ injury]. Having said that, I love the fight that they played with. I thought we played in the right way mentally and gave our absolute best physically.

“When you feel like after a game that you’ve been in a fight, then you’ve probably given your best. Loose balls, in the fray … I thought we were first to the floor a lot. I thought we were fighting. I respect that. You look at that crew we rolled out there with. We need to rebound better, but I respect how they fought.”

North Carolina led by as many as 18 points after Jackson hit two free throws with 6:41 left in the game to give the Tar Heels a 54-36 bulge. But Tech tried to get back in it. Back-to-back dunks by Shane Henry and a 3-pointer by Adam Smith with 2:08 remaining cut the lead to 61-53.

“The fight isn’t at the beginning of a game. It’s at the end,” Smith said. “We just had to keep fighting and clawing and keep our heads up.”

The Hokies nearly forced a turnover on the ensuing possession after Smith’s 3-pointer, but in the scramble, the Tar Heels got the ball to Theo Pinson, and his dunk with 1:50 left pushed the lead to 63-53. Tech did not score again, as North Carolina scored the final seven points of the game.

Tech stayed with the Tar Heels early in the game, tying things at 9 after Devin Wilson made the second of two free throws with 15:24 left in the half. But the Tar Heels went on an 11-0 run, one that was capped by a Jackson 3-pointer and a tip-in by Jackson with 3:57 left in the half that made the score 30-16, and the Tar Heels never looked back.

“I should have called a timeout,” Williams said of the run. “I should have called timeout at some point. After 6-0 [a 6-0 run], we were waiting for the media timeout. I should have called timeout.”

The Hokies went cold from the floor at the end of the first half, hitting just two of their final 13 shot attempts, and they shot just 32 percent in the half. They also got beat 27-12 on the boards, and as a result, trailed 34-21 at the break.

Jackson, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Tomball, Texas, made 5 of 10 from the floor, including two 3-pointers, and all four of his free-throw attempts. He also grabbed seven rebounds. Brice Johnson added 12 points for the Tar Heels, while J.P. Tokoto finished with 10.

Smith paced the Hokies with 11 points, hitting 4 of 9 from the floor, including three 3-pointers. Henry finished with a career-high 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Will Johnson added nine points on three 3-pointers.

The Hokies return to action on Thursday when the take on Notre Dame at Cassell Coliseum. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. It will mark their first home game in nearly two weeks.

“It’s been a while since we’ve played at home, and that’s our house,” Smith said. “The students will be back. They’ll be rockin’. It’ll be nice. It’s been a while since we’ve played with a full student section. It’s going to be exciting.”

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