CHAPEL HILL--- North Carolina wouldn't allow itself to fall into a trap game against Georgia Tech Wednesday night in the Smith Center.
If they were thinking about their upcoming game in Raleigh against North Carolina State----a game that will be featured on ESPN's College Gameday Saturday morning and put in a primetime spot in the evening---they didn't let it seep into their effort against the Yellow Jackets.
UNC defeated Georgia Tech 79-63 behind Reggie Bullock's team leading 17 points and P.J. Hairston's re-emergence as one of the nation's deadliest bench scorers (15 points in 17 minutes).
For Bullock, it's the fourth time this season he's led UNC (13-5, 3-2 ACC) in scoring and the 10th time he's gone into double figures.
"We feel good. We played in spurts, that's about the best part of it. We got off to a good start offensively moving and running the ball," said Roy Williams in his post-game press conference.
Williams feels that Georgia Tech's record (10-7, 0-5 ACC) isn't indicative, necessarily, of how good a team they are.
Rather, he feels that maybe the tough scheduling Georgia Tech has faced early on has led to a displeasing outcome in the standings.
"I feel for them. They've really gotten better and it's just they've had a tough, tough opening part of the conference play," said Williams. "They've had by far the most difficult schedule in the league. They are going to be a load for anybody as the second part of the season starts."
Williams talked about the great effort he received from his sharp-shooting sixth man, Hairston, and about the consistency he hopes to find going forward.
Bullock commented in the locker room after about the team's chemistry that has developed the last few games.
"I'm seeing our team gelling together a lot better, knowing their roles and what they are capable of doing," said Bullock. "So they're just going out there, playing the game that Coach [Williams] recruited them to play."
Bullock continued to talk about team chemistry and the role it will play for this team going forward.
"We've been focusing on our defense, our transition buckets and players getting open shots. Once we handle our business on defense and set good screens on the offensive end our shots will come," said Bullock.
Bullock's fellow shooting specialist, Hairston, shot 3-6 from three-point range, which of course pleased Williams.
"I'll take 3-6 from the three-point line every time," the Hall of Fame coach replied.
"It would be consistency if we got it [every game], but we don't have it yet. We've got to get consistency out of him if he's going to be the big-time player that we need him to be."
James Michael McAdoo nearly secured a double-double by scoring 14 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
McAdoo talked about the difference he's feeling between what he experienced last season and this season.
"Last year I kind of got a feel for that [toughness of ACC opponents], but being a starter and knowing that every game you play a team could beat you by who knows how much if you don't show up to play," said McAdoo. "We're all learning as a team, especially the freshman. I know we all love it. We want to play the other team when they're at their best. The ACC is a great conference."
The young players for UNC all appeared to take steps forward against a winless Georgia Tech team.
Desmond Hubert played 22 minutes, up from his season average of 11.4. He also set a career-high with 5 blocks. He missed all three of his field-goal attempts but his rebounding (6 rebounds) and his shot blocking abilities allowed him to look the best he's looked all season.
Joel James played 10 minutes and had one memorable stretch that saw him make a jumper on one end, pose for the crowd after the made shot only to see his man beat him back on defense. This forced him to raise his arm to deflect a pass that would have given up an easy Georgia Tech lay-up in transition.
Williams appeared to celebrate James' hustle but instead clarified in his post-game remarks that he was none too pleased with James in that particular moment.
"I was telling him he was dumb," said Williams while clarifying a reporter's misinterpretation that Williams might have been praising James' effort instead of teaching him a lesson in humility.
"I was not happy with that. This is not the playground you don't have to pose after every shot."
Williams touched on why he feels this team, like many of his teams in years past, play better and will continue to increase their chances of success if they play well, offensively, in transition.
"It's easier to score when the defense is not set, and that generally starts with good play on the defensive end," said Williams. "We haven't gotten established yet being able to run after a make, which our teams in the past have always done really well. But we haven't done that really well."
UNC had 14 fast break points in their outing against Georgia Tech.
J.P. Tokoto was able to put up decent numbers by scoring 8 points, securing 5 rebounds and bringing the Dean Dome to its feet on a misfire-turned-highlight reel slam.
After taking an ill-fated jumper from mid-range that ended up being off the mark, Tokoto immediately followed his shot and slammed the put-back home before anybody else on the court had time to react. It was a play, from a young player, that not only showed Tokoto's amazing athletic capabilities, but his increasing basketball savvy.
Tokoto had only scored seven total points in four combined ACC games this year. His eight points surpassed that total tonight.
Dexter Strickland continued to provide veteran leadership by dishing out six assists and only turning the ball over two times while playing 24 minutes. Strickland also picked the Yellow Jackets' pockets three times (3 steals). Those three steals add to his team leading 29 total for the season.
Jackson Simmons made the most of his minutes, scoring six points in only eight minutes. He also drew a foul and made both free-throws that came with it.
Georgia Tech will walk away from their loss against UNC still in search of their first ACC victory of the season (0-5 ACC play).
"I think North Carolina's starting to kind of come into its own," said Georgia Tech Head Coach Brian Gregory.
"They've got some guys playing at a really high level. Obviously Bullock is playing really well and I think McAdoo is starting to gain some consistency. So, for 40 minutes I was proud of the way our guys fought and competed, but their defense sped us up and we lacked composure in some key times there."
Gregory continued praising UNC's defense.
"In this league, you need to be able to be aggressive but composed, when you play some of these teams that really deny a d try to speed you up," said Gregory. "They sped us up."
UNC forced 19 Georgia Tech turnovers.
Georgia Tech's leading scorer was reserve
Kammeon Holsey finishing with 18 points.
North Carolina upped its record against Georgia Tech to 27-6 in Chapel Hill and 22-4 in the Dean Smith Center.
The Tar Heels managed to block a season-high 10 blocks led by the aforementioned career-high from Hubert.
Hairston's scoring output was his second double-digit performance in ACC play this year.
The Tar Heels have led at the half in all five of their ACC games.
This is only the second time (the game against Florida State being the other) that UNC outscored its ACC foe in the second half.