North Carolina hasn’t beaten Georgia Tech in nearly three years, but appears to have a good chance to end that drought this weekend.
Having bounced back nicely in two games since a blowout loss, the seventh-ranked Tar Heels will try to add to their school-record home winning streak Sunday night against the Yellow Jackets, one of two occupants of the ACC cellar and losers of four in a row.
North Carolina (17-3, 4-1) has dropped four straight to Georgia Tech since a 104-74 home victory Feb. 28, 2009, but enters Sunday with some momentum. Since losing 90-57 at Florida State on Jan. 14, the Tar Heels have won their last two games by a combined 33 points.
They rolled to a 74-55 victory over North Carolina State on Thursday. Tyler Zeller led the way with 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds as North Carolina posted its 30th consecutive home win.
The game was North Carolina’s first since losing starting guard Dexter Strickland for the season to a torn right ACL.
Sophomore Reggie Bullock made his first career start in Strickland’s place and finished with 11 points for the Tar Heels, who limited their second straight opponent to 36.8 percent shooting. They outrebounded the Wolfpack 48-26 and have a 99-54 advantage on the boards in their last two wins.
“Probably, the biggest thing is we’ve been playing harder,” Zeller said. “In the Florida State game, we didn’t play with the greatest of efforts. Right now, we’re playing well as a team. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
North Carolina may prove too much to handle for Georgia Tech (8-12, 1-5). The Yellow Jackets, tied for last in the ACC with Virginia Tech, have dropped eight of nine and are trying to avoid their first five-game skid of the season.
“Not only are they talented but they’re playing good team basketball,” first-year Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said of the Tar Heels. “They’re really moving the ball well, and their transition is something you have to really be aware of every single possession.”
Gregory’s team, averaging 49.8 points during its four-game losing streak, shot 35.7 percent in a 64-49 home loss to Miami on Tuesday.
Glen Rice Jr. had 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds while making his first start since Dec. 29. Jason Morris also returned to the starting lineup but was 0 for 7 from the field.
“We just need to keep fighting and getting better,” Gregory said. “We’re in a position where we have to keep trying different things to see if the guys respond differently.”
Rice, averaging a team-best 13.6 points, scored 24 points in a 78-58 rout of North Carolina last January in Atlanta. The Tar Heels shot 27.6 percent en route to their most lopsided defeat of 2010-11.