North Carolina’s renewed spirit on defending will get its biggest test yet against the nation’s leading scorer Sunday at Georgia Tech.
Michael DeVoe, the Yellow Jackets’ 6-foot-5 guard, is averaging 25 points per game this season. He’s already posted two games scoring more than 30 points, including his 33-point effort in Wednesday’s 70-66 loss to Wisconsin.
“They have the luxury of having Michael DeVoe, who was playing better than any guard in a country right now,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “Offensively, he’s in a rhythm that I haven’t really seen much at all in terms of from 3-point range, getting to the free throw line and being able to distribute.”
DeVoe leads the ACC shooting 59 percent from 3-point range, he ranks fourth averaging 4.3 assists per game and his 56.5 percent field-goal percentage ranks sixth. He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the top 10 of those categories and scoring.
“He’s aggressive, he’s not a standstill, spot-up shooter,” Davis said. “He’s not a guy that you know just is coming off of screens. He can score off the bounce or he can score off the catch and they’re looking for him every possession on the offensive end.”
Here is a good chance for UNC senior forward Leaky Black to show why he’s in the starting lineup. Black is considered Carolina’s best defender and Davis said he will spend time guarding DeVoe along with Justin McKoy and possibly Caleb Love and Dontrez Styles.
Black said last week on a video conference that his philosophy on defense includes trying to make his opponent “uncomfortable.”
“Offense is pretty much about confidence and I feel like once you take somebody’s confidence on offense, that’s pretty much half the battle,” Black said. “They’re not gonna want to do anything else, they’re gonna start second-guessing themselves.”
Carolina (5-2, 0-0 ACC) is coming off its most complete game of the season, bashing No. 24 Michigan 72-51 on Wednesday. The Tar Heels held the Wolverines to a season-low point total while allowing them to shoot just 35 percent from the field.
That effort helped erase some of the lingering questions about UNC defensively that came from allowing Purdue and Tennessee to both shoot better than 60 percent in the second halves of those two losses. But Davis said their defensive performance won’t mean much if the Heels come back with a poor outing on Sunday.
“In order to validate a win, you have to play as well and you have to win the next game,” Davis said. “And so in terms of validating our effort and our attention to detail, how well we played on both ends of the floor, you validate that by the way that you play against Georgia Tech.”
Davis believes defense will be a key to making sure the Heels don’t let the Jackets (5-2, 0-0) slow down the pace of the game too much. Tech’s adjusted tempo ranks at 154, according to Ken Pomeroy, while the Heels are No. 84.
“When we’re locked in and when we’re good defensively, that allows us to get stops,” Davis said. “Our length and athleticism allows us to get rebounds, and then that gets us in transition. So what will dictate whether we can play at our pace or not, will be our defense.”
UNC at Georgia Tech
Where: McKamish Pavilion, Atlanta
Date: Sunday, Dec. 5
Time: 3 p.m.
Series history: Carolina leads 69-27.