North Carolina-Virginia Tech Preview


North Carolina extended its winning streak earlier this week behind Marcus Paige's late-game heroics.

Saturday's matchup at Virginia Tech doesn't figure to be as close.

The No. 19 Tar Heels go for an 11th consecutive victory as they face the ACC-worst Hokies, losers in 13 of 14.

North Carolina (21-7, 11-4) has outscored foes by an average of 12.1 points during its run, but coach Roy Williams' team survived a scare in Wednesday's thrilling 85-84 overtime win at North Carolina State. Paige scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half and overtime, including the go-ahead layup with 0.9 seconds to play.

"Marcus did not play very well in the first half, but in the second half, that's about as good an exhibition as I've ever seen," Williams said. "That was just off the charts. ... He's as tough a little sucker as I've ever seen."

Paige, leading the team with 17.5 points per game, shot 11 of 21 and 7 of 12 from 3-point range. Fellow sophomore J.P. Tokoto also came up big with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who trailed by 11 in the first half and six with less than 2 minutes remaining in OT.

The game featured seven lead changes and seven ties after halftime.

"You appreciate the back and forth, but you appreciate it more by winning," senior Leslie McDonald said. "We just had to dig deep, and we drew up plays, and Marcus took us to the promised land."

North Carolina's winning streak is its longest since 2008-09, when it won the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels, though, are trying to take things one game at a time.

"I think (Wednesday's win) is definitely something we want to learn from as we get ready for our next game, going into another tough road game in Virginia Tech," forward James Michael McAdoo said.

The Tar Heels have won three straight and eight of nine from the Hokies (9-18, 2-13), and they appear to have a big edge Saturday.

Virginia Tech has been limited to 55.8 points per game and 38.0 percent shooting during its 1-13 slide. The Hokies are hoping to avoid a fourth consecutive loss after falling 66-48 at No. 6 Duke on Tuesday.

"We got down so much early on, and that just killed us," big man Joey van Zegeren told the school's official website. "Basketball is a game of runs. They made some runs, and we made some runs to fight back. But there is no way you're going to fight back from a 20-point deficit against Duke unless you keep pressuring them and keep making runs."

Freshman Trevor Thompson was the only Hokie to score in double figures, posting a season high-tying 15 points while shooting 6 of 9. He is averaging just 4.8 points on the season.

"Trevor seemed to be a lot more patient out there tonight, took his time when he got the ball and he scored around the basket with his right hand, his left hand," coach James Johnson said. "He took a step forward tonight against a very good team in a hostile environment, showed a lot of poise in the post and scored basically whenever he got the opportunity to."

Virginia Tech has dropped nine straight against ranked teams, including all five this season by an average of 13.2 points.