Bullocks shooting relieves pressure on teammates

DEAN SMITH CENTER/CHAPEL HILL — Despite losing the second half by eight points and allowing Georgia Tech to depart with a respectable 93-81 defeat, North Carolina actually played one of its most impressive games of the season on Sunday evening.

The Tar Heels typically prefer a gentlemanly course against over-matched foes, and their uninspired performance in the second half should be viewed through that lens. Carolina’s offense moved briskly and dissected Tech’s defense repeatedly, frequently taking a high-percentage shot early in the possession.

UNC scorched from long-range, burying 10-for-16 on threes. The Heels shot 54 percent overall (60 percent in the first half) and notched 22 assists with only 10 turnovers.

Harrison Barnes looked sensational on a series of drives, post-ups and spotting up from distance. He finished with 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Tyler Zeller continues to piece together one of the finest stretches of his career, amassing 17 points (7-for-9 field goals) and throwing down impressive slams. Kendall Marshall’s command of the offense once again dazzled, as he dished out 12 assists and committed only one turnover.

Everyone wondered whether the offense would enjoy a boost when Reggie Bullock stepped into the starting lineup for the injured Dexter Strickland, and Bullock’s play certainly stood out against the Yellow Jackets. He converted 3-for-6 on threes and led the team with two offensive rebounds.

On defense, Carolina bothered Tech with its great length as well as with aggressive traps and overall ball pressure. The Yellow Jackets rank among the poorer ACC clubs in terms of talent — as their 1-6 conference record suggests — and they shot only 38 percent in the first half.

The evening’s highlight also occurred in the first half, when freshman guard Stilman White utilized a dribble move that caused his defender to fall down and then immediately banged home a three. For such an untested player, White has performed solidly thus far in his backup role since Strickland’s injury.

UNC improved its record to 18-3, 5-1 in the ACC. The Heels are tied for first place with Duke and Florida State, which holds wins over both UNC and the Blue Devils. Click here to view the UNC/GT box score.