By MATT WINKELJOHN
ATLANTA (AP) — Cameron Johnson and Coby White showed North Carolina is tough to beat and that the Tar Heels might be able to dream big.
Johnson scored a game-high 22 points, including eight straight to open the second half, as No. 9 North Carolina defeated Georgia Tech 77-54 Tuesday night.
North Carolina went on runs of 20-5 and 34-11 in the lopsided win.
Johnson and White, who scored 19 points, combined to make nine 3-pointers and the Tar Heels (16-4, 6-1 ACC) shot 13 for 27 from beyond the arc.
The performance comes one game after the Tar Heels made 16 of 34 3s in a 103-82 win over Virginia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets entered the game No. 2 in the nation in 3-point defense, allowing just a 26.5 percent conversion rate. North Carolina blitzed Georgia Tech from long distance.
But North Carolina head coach Roy Williams wasn’t ready to dream in front of reporters. Instead, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner shed some light on his thinking.
“Coach Williams told me after the game, he says, ‘That was our best 10-minute stretch all year. If we play like that, we’ll win the national championship,’” Pastner said after his team was outscored by 33 points from beyond the 3-point arc.
Tech shot 2 for 16 from long distance.
“I think people are sleeping on them. I know they’re ninth in the country, but nobody’s really talking about them,” Pastner said. “But they’re really good and they’re playing at a very high level.”
Georgia Tech (11-10, 3-5) managed to muddy the game in the first half, at least in the paint with the big man tandem of Abdoulaye Gueye and center James Banks III anchoring their zone.
Carolina built a 31-24 halftime lead despite shooting 7 of 17, but the Tar Heels hit 5 of 12 from long distance and the Jackets connected on just 1 of 10.
“Eight turnovers in the first half: I was very disappointed in that …,” Williams said. “To miss 32 shots (in the game) and get seven offensive rebounds, I was not pleased.”
Gueye led the Jackets with 14 points, but Tech was never in the game after North Carolina made seven of its first eight shots in the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers by Johnson and two more by White. He finished with 19 points on 5-of-9 3-point shooting. The freshman added a career-high eight assists.
Johnson, a graduate transfer from Pitt, hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to start the second half, and then dunked off a steal.
Eventually, the Tar Heels pulled Georgia Tech out of its preferred zone, but it was too late. North Carolina built a lead of 30 points when freshman Nassir Little dunked off a steal to push the margin to 65-35 with 10:18 left.
“I think we had a pretty good game plan coming in,” said Johnson, who didn’t play the final 3:29. “Their zone, in practice we got a good look at it. … We have a lot of guys that can score, and we have a lot of guys that can score a lot of points.”
Georgia Tech fell behind 31-21 when Johnson made a pair of free throws with 1:10 left in the first half.
Tech made just 10 of 32 shots, and missed its first nine 3-point shots before Michael Devoe connected from beyond the arc with 56 seconds remaining.
INJURIES ON BOTH SIDES
North Carolina freshman reserve guard Leaky Black was helped from the court with an injury to his left ankle or leg with 8:28 remaining in the game. … Tech starting point guard Jose Alvarado was helped to the locker room with 5:33 left with what appeared to be a right ankle or foot injury.
North Carolina: Williams broke a third-place tie with former Maryland coach Gary Williams with his 211th ACC victory, including regular season and tournament games. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (480) and former UNC coach Dean Smith (422) are 1-2.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets lost track of North Carolina shooters and allowed their most 3-pointers in a game this season. Previously, Arkansas made 10 of 32 against Tech, and Wake Forest made 9 of 22, but the Jackets won both games with stellar shooting of their own. On Tuesday, they were not only 2 of 16 on 3-pointers, but 18 of 38 in the paint. “We had that stretch to start the game where we could have been up 10-0,” Pastner said. “We just missed open shots and layups, and that’s just a big deal.”
North Carolina: Saturday at No. 15 Louisville.
Georgia Tech: At No. 25 Florida State on Saturday.