There was little question of effort of North Carolina effort on Thursday, not with the way it came back multiple times. Heck, Marcus Ginyard even finally hit a couple of shots, freshmen John Henson and David Wear posted career scoring highs, and coach Roy Williams tried a lineup change.
Yet after losing to Virginia Tech 74-70 at Cassell Coliseium, the Tar Heels find themselves in a bigger hole than ever: 2-5 in ACC play.
The Tar Heels led 35-33 at halftime, but the Hokies - who squandered a dozen-point lead in the first half - pulled away again when guard Malcolm Delaney scored back-to-back 3-pointers to given them a 54-47 cushion with about 12 minutes left. On the next play, Delaney was called for his fourth foul and went to the bench, seemingly giving the Tar Heels an opening. But teammate Dorenzo Hudson didn't let up, following a field goal with a three-point play to give Tech a 61-52 advantage - and put the Tar Heels into comeback mode, again.
UNC systematically chipped back, getting a three-point play from Deon Thompson, a gliding bucket from Henson, and a bunch of free throws - one of which, by Thompson with 3:36 left, cut Tech's lead to 66-64. Hokie forward Jeff Allen made it 67-64 with a free throw, then 69-64 when he was credited for a bucket after an Ed Davis goaltend.
A Davis free throw, then Larry Drew II transition bucket, cut it back to 69-67. Then with 36.6 seconds left, Delaney went to the free throw line and buried both to give the Hokies a 71-67 cushion. With 18 seconds left, a 3-point try by UNC's Will Graves wiggled out, pretty much sealing the loss.
Davis finished with 15 for the Tar Heels; David Wear added 12.
Delaney scored 21 for Virginia Tech.
The game began with a lineup change, as freshman Dexter Strickland made his fourth start of the season at shooting guard, in place of senior Marcus Ginyard - but the first that wasn't because of an injury.
Carolina was sloppy and turnover-prone early. But trailing 22-10 with about12 minutes left in the first half, UNC came back to tie it 24-24 with a 14-2 run, culminating when freshman John Henson followed a dunk with two free throws. Ginyard, - 0-for-8 his previous two games, and 6-for-28 in six previous games since returning from a right ankle injury - also buried a 3-pointer during the run, and Tech went without a field goal for about five minutes.
Hudson stopped the deluge with a jumper. And with 4:26 left, Delaney - the ACC's leading scorer who was 1-for-7 in the first-half - scored his only field goal before halftime during a three-point play to give the Hokies a 29-27 lead.
But Carolina took a 35-33 lead into the break when Drew II beat the buzzer on a runner.