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No. 15 North Carolina overcomes sloppy effort to defeat Virginia Tech

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina coach Roy Williams added a practice to the team’s schedule after the way the No. 15 Tar Heels played Sunday night.

The way the team went about business in a 68-53 victory against visiting Virginia Tech wasn’t pleasing to the veteran coach.

“The first half we shoot 13 3s and zero free throws,” Williams said. “That’s not the way a North Carolina team is supposed to play.”

Freshman forward Justin Jackson scored 16 points, and the Tar Heels, despite numerous sloppy stretches, defeated a struggling Virginia Tech team at the Smith Center.

So a nighttime workout for Monday has been slated for what would have been a day off for the Tar Heels.

“We did some good things. We did some bad things,” North Carolina forward Brice Johnson said. “I understand why he’s calling (the extra practice). It’s not his fault. We shouldn’t have been turning the ball over as much as we did.”

North Carolina coughed up 17 turnovers, just an example of the source of Williams’ displeasure.

“They played in a frenzy and put us in position to make turnovers,” he said. “We obliged and made some turnovers.”

Johnson’s 12 points and forward J.P. Tokoto’s 10 points helped the Tar Heels (14-4, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). North Carolina picked up its third consecutive victory and eighth win in nine games.

Guard Adam Smith scored 11 points and forward Shane Henry added 10 points for Virginia Tech, which lost its fifth game in a row.

The Hokies (8-9, 0-4) scored five points in an 11-second stretch to close within 61-53 with 2:04 remaining. They appeared poised to come up with another North Carolina turnover, but the Tar Heels ended up with the ball, and freshman forward Theo Pinson converted on a breakaway dunk.

“I just like when you feel like after a game you’ve been in a fight, you feel good (about yourself),” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “I liked their fight. You look at that crew we rolled out there, I respect that fight.”

North Carolina guard Marcus Paige, who was 5-for-5 on 3-pointers Wednesday night at North Carolina State, sat out a portion of the second half due to a bruised right hip. Paige hit his first 3-point attempt Sunday before missing from long range. He finished with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting, making two of seven 3-point tries.

Jackson, who collected a season-best seven rebounds, posted his second-highest point total of the season. He had 10 points in the first half, hitting two 3-pointers for the third time this season.

North Carolina’s Williams said his team didn’t work hard enough to get the ball inside against a smaller Virginia Tech team.

“We scored 34 points inside to their 18 and it should have been a whole heckuva lot more,” he said.

Ten of Virginia Tech’s 19 field goals were 3-pointers.

North Carolina led 34-21 at halftime, going over the top of Virginia Tech’s defense for four dunks and connecting on four 3-pointers.

The Tar Heels scored the game’s first seven points, but the score was even at 9-9. North Carolina built a 30-16 edge while Virginia Tech went 12 consecutive possessions without scoring.

“Should have called a timeout at some point (during that stretch),” Buzz Williams said.

Virginia Tech freshman guard Justin Bibbs, who is averaging a team-high 13.6 points per game, missed the game after sustaining a concussion in practice. He poured in 20.7 points per game in three ACC outings, but he didn’t make the trip because of the ailment.

Malik Muller drew a starting assignment in Virginia Tech’s backcourt, and he finished with three points and two assists.

Even with the depleted roster, the Hokies picked up 29 points from their reserves. That included freshman guard Jalen Hudson’s eight points, with a season-best two 3s. Hudson also provided a team-high four assists.

Buzz Williams said the freshmen have to make significant contributions for the Hokies to contend.

“We have to have a lot out of them,” he said. “We need Jalen like he was tonight.”

NOTES: North Carolina’s previous three games were decided by a total of four points, two victories

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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