North Carolina advances easily to Wednesday with 78-56 win over Virginia Tech

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— North Carolina’s journey of winning five games in five days can’t begin without a first step.

That first step was taken emphatically with a 78-56 win over Virginia Tech (16-16), North Carolina’s second-largest margin of victory this season and its largest since January 25 when it beat Miami by 23 points.

Garrison Brooks had 13 of his 20 points in the second half, while Brandon Robinson added 17 points and hit 5 of his 6 3-point attempts.

Armando Bacot had 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Cole Anthony added 10 points.

Some have wondered if North Carolina (14-18) can get hot and make a run in this event. The first half did not seem to be a harbinger of that as the Tar Heels shot just 36 percent from the floor.

But North Carolina still led by six at the break in spite of that because Virginia Tech shot just 29 percent.

In the second half, though, North Carolina shot 54.8% and really did not look back after the break, taking a double-digit lead early in the second half and eventually going on a 15-3 run to grow its lead to 20 points and more.

The Hokies were not the same team that North Carolina fell to in Blacksburg in double overtime. Neither is North Carolina – the Tar Heels were without Robinson and Cole Anthony in that game back on January 22 – but Virginia Tech lost nine of its final 11 games. The Hokies had started off the season with a surprising 13-4 record under first-year head coach Mike Young.

North Carolina has gone 5-8 since the loss at Virginia Tech and has gotten both Robinson and Anthony back. It’s as healthy as they’ve been.

Virginia Tech started off its season well, getting out to a 13-4 record, before losing nine of its final 11 games.

The Hokies were led in scoring by Hunter Cattoor, who had 14 points and hit 4 of 10 from beyond the arc.

Virginia Tech scored 30 of its 56 points from the 3-point line and hit just 8 of its 26 attempts from inside of it.

North Carolina will take on Syracuse – who it just beat by 13 on its home court – at 9 p.m. in front of what will essentially be a home crowd on Wednesday night.

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