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After loss at Georgia Tech, UNC tries to get serious for 2nd ACC game

Joel Berry on Tar Heels' loss to Georgia Tech

Video: UNC point guard Joel Berry discusses what went wrong during the Tar Heels' 75-63 defeat at Georgia Tech.
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Video: UNC point guard Joel Berry discusses what went wrong during the Tar Heels' 75-63 defeat at Georgia Tech.

Not all of Joel Berry’s teammates agreed with his assertion that North Carolina looked past Georgia Tech on Saturday during the Tar Heels’ 75-63 loss in their first ACC game. The way they played, though, it was difficult to argue with him.

“It was a bigger game for them,” Berry, a Tar Heels’ junior point guard, said of `the Yellow Jackets.

It was a stunning admission: one of UNC’s leaders acknowledging that the Tar Heels didn’t take the challenge in front of them as seriously as their opponent. Yet now it’s No. 14 UNC that won’t lack for some urgency.

That’s the Tar Heels’ hope, at least, entering their game on Tuesday at Clemson. The Tar Heels have beaten the Tigers in 18 of their past 19 meetings, dating to March 2004. As UNC learned at Georgia Tech, though, past success doesn’t necessarily translate to success in the future or the present.

“They just came out with better effort, better energy than we did,” Berry said Saturday. “We thought that we were going to come in here and just (win) – because it’s Georgia Tech.”

It’s an ugly stat sheet. But from my side it was an ugly game.

Roy Williams on Saturday’s loss at Georgia Tech

Clemson, seeking to end its five-year absence from the NCAA tournament, will offer an even more formidable challenge. The Tigers on Saturday won their first conference game, at Wake Forest, after scoring the final 15 points during a 73-68 victory.

UNC on Saturday failed to contain Josh Okogie, the Georgia Tech freshman guard who led his team with 26 points. It won’t be any easier at Littlejohn Coliseum, where UNC will encounter Jaron Blossomgame, a 6-7 forward who’s a first-team All-ACC candidate.

After the defeat in Atlanta, some Tar Heels wondered if they could play any worse than they did. Justin Jackson, the junior forward, used words like “terrible” and “awful” to describe the performance, the numbers back it up.

“It’s an ugly stat sheet,” coach Roy Williams said after the game. “But from my side it was an ugly game.”

Video: North Carolina coach Roy Williams reacts following the Tar Heels loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, December 31, 2016 at McCamish Pavillion in Atlanta, Georgia.

How the Tar Heels respond on Tuesday will help answer some questions created by the debacle at Georgia Tech: Was what happened at McCamish Pavilion a fluke, a one-game letdown? Or was that loss indicative of something more concerning?

UNC played poorly on offense, poorly on defense – poorly in just about every facet. The Tar Heels received a lesson, too, that they’ll try to apply at Littlejohn, where they’ve won in their past three visits.

“We’re 0-1 in the conference,” Jackson said. “So if we don’t take teams more serious, we’re going to be 0-2, 0-3, 0-4.”

Video: UNC junior forward Justin Jackson discusses what went wrong during the Tar Heels' 75-63 loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

UNC at Clemson

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C.

TV: ESPN2

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