Virginia Tech dropped its fourth consecutive ACC contest on Saturday afternoon, falling 72-60 in overtime to North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
“Another fought, tough loss for this team,” said James Johnson, head coach. “I thought the guys played well, I thought we executed the game plan and put ourselves in position to win.
“With the team that this team has gone through, to be here with the ball in regulation with a chance to win the game, I thought we put ourselves in great position, we just couldn’t finish the game.”
After opening the game on a 12-0 run, the Hokies (11-10, 2-6 ACC) allowed Carolina back into the game midway through the first half.
The Heels (15-6, 5-3 ACC) went on a 15-4 run of their own, paced by freshman Marcus Paige’s touch from beyond the arc.
“I thought Paige stepped up for them and made some tough shots,” Johnson said. “In this building in regulation, I thought we did a good job defensively.”
Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer coming into the game, finished with just 16 points, his second-lowest output of the season.
“I wanted him to be a little bit more aggressive, but they did a really good job,” Johnson said of Carolina’s defense. “Switching different guys to him, putting bigger guys on him and bodied him a little bit.
While Green struggled at times — he finished 7-of-21 from the field — junior forward Jarell Eddie carried the team offensively.
Eddie, who had 15 points on the day, looked more aggressive off the dribble and was able to provide the scoring threat that Tech has been looking for all season.
The Hokies — who were outscored 17-5 during the overtime period — had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Green’s step-back jumper failed to even catch the rim with 1.9 seconds remaining.
Johnson’s bunch played respectable defense against the ACC’s highest-scoring team, holding them to just 55 points in regulation.
“We executed the game plan,” Johnson said. “We took them out of transition — that’s something they want to do, especially here at home. To hold them to 55 points in regulation, I’ve got to tip my hat to our defense, transition defense, and our defense in general.”
The Tar Heels also received a lot of help from sophomore James Michael McAdoo, who led all scorers with 22 points. He shot 8-of-12 from the field and added 10 rebounds.
Tech only shot 10 free throws on the day, to Carolina’s 27. Big men Cadarian Raines and C.J. Barksdale both fouled out, while Robert Brown had four fouls. Erick Green, who averages 8.9 free throw attempts per game, did not go to the line.
“That’s mind boggling, but he’s got to continue to attack,” Johnson said of Green. “In transition, I thought he had some opportunities to attack. I thought we could have attacked a little bit more in transition.”
Raines — who was back in the starting line up after coming off the bench against Miami — put together his second consecutive impressive performance, despite fouling out in overtime. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks on 6-of-11 shooting.
Brown — who, like Raines, was back in the starting lineup — had an up-and-down game, making several clutch baskets, while also turning the ball over and taking more than one questionable shot.
Brown finished with 10 points on just 3-of-12 shooting. He was 4-of-5 from the free throw line.
Tech’s lack of depth showed somewhat throughout the game. The team only has eight scholarship players on the roster.
“It’s into February, and I’ve seen it in the last four games, we’re starting to wear down a little bit,” Johnson said. “The lack bodies, the lack of depth is starting to wear on us.”
The Hokies return home to face Maryland on Thursday, Feb. 7. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m.