Tar Heels turn Green blue in OT win over Hokies
With the score tied and the nation’s leading scorer likely for the final shot of regulation, North Carolina’s coaching staff asked 6-foot-7 Reggie Bullock if he wanted to defend Virginia Tech’s Erick Green.
Dexter Strickland, Marcus Paige and Leslie Strickland — none taller than 6-foot-5 — had been brilliant all day against the 6-foot-4 point guard. But Bullock didn’t hesitate, forced Green into a shot that wasn’t very close, and North Carolina rolled in overtime, 72-60.
“He likes the step-back jump shots,” Strickland said. “So, it was a smart move on coach to put Reggie on him, because he’s 6-6, 6-7, and can get that length in there on defense.”
Green was averaging 25.5 points per game, had scored 21 or more in all but one of 20 games, and shot less than 42 percent in a game only twice. His bucket with 16:15 left gave VPI a 40-33 lead, but he proceeded to miss nine of his final 10 shots, only scoring with 90 seconds left in OT and the Tar Heels already having forged a seven-point cushion.
He also only managed one assist in the game’s final 21 minutes, finishing with 16 points and 7-for-21 shooting.
“Their post guys kind of built a wall against our guards, in particular Green, and didn’t let him get to the basket and drive it,” said Tech head coach James Johnson. “That’s where he gets most of his free throw attempts.”
He didn’t have any Saturday for the first time this year.
“I think they did great, especially the last shot of regulation,” said James Michael McAdoo, who led the Tar Heels with 22 points and 10 rebounds. “That’s all that mattered. Reggie said in the huddle, ‘I got Green.’ He really stepped up, locked him down.
“He’s the leading scorer in the nation, so the guy can play. They took that upon themselves and that really helped us win the game.”
In addition to the obvious threat Green gives Tech (11-10, 2-6 ACC), his tenacity without the ball is especially troublesome to defenses. His quickness allows him to start the offense, flash down to the low post and accelerate back out to the 3-point area, usually running a defender off multiple screeners.
Strickland said drills in practice for him to run through as many as four players prepared him. He said on-the-ball defense is his forte, while coaches stay on him “a lot” about his off-the-ball defense.
And he called Saturday his best defensive game.
“He’s always running, constantly moving around and they’re setting screens for him,” Bullock said of Green. “He’s tough to guard without the ball.”
“Nothing works against him because he’s really, really good,” said Tar Heels’ head coach Roy Williams, whose team climbed to 15-6, 5-3 in the ACC. “They set a lot of screens, they’re legal screens, they’re just hard to get through. I thought Dexter, Leslie and Reggie — Reggie has a little more size that can bother him.
“Everybody had to be aware of him. Our big guys, when they were guarding the screener, they had to be alert and in a stance. We were lucky, too, because he missed some shots that he normally makes. Sixteen points for him is not his average, but I feel good about the job we did. He’s hard, hard to guard.”
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