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North Carolina handled Georgia Tech by 17 points in Atlanta last month and the Yellow Jackets have been struggling ever since. Tech has lost seven of its past nine games and just snapped a three-game losing streak with its win over Boston College on Wednesday.
Carolina is undefeated at home in eight games, including last week’s win over Virginia for the first time since 2017.
Yet UNC coach Hubert Davis takes little from all the facts that make the Heels a double-digit favorite with Georgia Tech (7-8, 1-4 ACC) coming to the Dean E. Smith Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’re not good enough to take any team lightly,” Davis said. “We’re just not.”
The Tar Heels (11-4, 3-1) found that out after their loss at Notre Dame in which sophomore guard Caleb Love indicated they may have overlooked the Irish. But Carolina will be back at full strength, which it wasn’t in South Bend.
Davis said Dawson Garcia (concussion) and Kerwin Walton (COVID) returned to practice this week and are available to play against the Yellow Jackets. Both players missed the past two games, including their loss at Notre Dame.
Garcia has started 12 games and averages 10 points per game. Walton had just broken out of a shooting slump when he entered protocol and had to sit. Davis said the Heels “really missed them.”
“Both of those guys bring so much and add so much value to this team on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “And so just to have them available back in the lineup, whether they come off the bench or whether they start, they make our team much better.”
Davis said they won’t be limited in their participation, but he did not indicate whether Garcia would immediately return to the starting lineup. Forward Brady Manek, in his absence, had a good performance, scoring 19 against Virginia.
Davis indicated afterwards that he liked the chemistry Armando Bacot and Manek displayed together in the same lineup. It’s one reason why Davis is so optimistic that the Heels are trending upward.
“I don’t know where I thought the team would be at this point,” Davis said. “But I do know this. I like the direction that we’re going. And I’m very encouraged about how much more we can improve. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Davis was especially profuse in his praise of Bacot, who is the only player in the ACC averaging a double-double with 16.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Bacot leads the league in rebounding and field goal percentage, shooting 64.2 percent from the field.
“As I said before, it’s not even close, he is the ACC Player of the Year plain and simple, period, the end,” Davis said.
Carolina hasn’t played since beating the Cavaliers 74-58 last Saturday. Davis said his team spent the week doing individual workouts before its preparation for Georgia Tech. Barring another game postponement, it’s the last time the Heels will have a week off between games.