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January 16, 2008ATLANTA - North Carolina knew it wasn't going to be easy getting a win here.
But after not winning at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in more than seven years, the top-ranked Tar Heels finally got the best of Georgia Tech on its home floor, squeaking out an 83-82 win.
The Yellow Jackets (7-9, 0-3 in the ACC) had two cracks at a game-winning shot in the final seconds.
But UNC's Danny Green blocked Zach Peacock's shot before Peacock gathered the ball and missed a second attempt.
"We feel very lucky," said UNC coach Roy Williams, whose team improved to 18-0 and 3-0 in the ACC.
The final minutes of the game were ones of redemption for Green who drew Williams' ire with three minutes to go.
Green made an ill-advised drive, got called for a charge and promptly found himself on the bench, where Williams chewed him out.
But on top of the potentially game-saving block in the final seconds, Green also had a huge rebound with 22 seconds left on the clock.
He was fouled after corralling the ball and hit the first of two free throws for the final margin of victory.
Tyler Hansbrough, who helped steer Peacock towards Green on the blocked shot, finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds in an extremely physical inside game.
And for the second straight game, Hansbrough passed four players on the ACC's all-time free-throw list, moving into 11th place.
"Tyler was really something else," Williams said.
Hansbrough has been involved in his share of battles in the paint, but there was plenty of physical evidence of how vicious this game got down low.
Both Hansbrough and backup Alex Stepheson had cuts on their noses and faces after the game.
"My face really got beat up tonight," Hansbrough said. "There were a lot of scrappy little plays. It was really rough."
The Tar Heels hadn't won here since Jan. 2, 2001 and were losers of four in a row to the Jackets on the road.
"Nobody on our staff had won here except me when I was an assistant, and that was 800 years ago," Williams said.
Since returning to Chapel Hill, Williams had beaten every other ACC school - including the three expansion schools - on their respective home floors before finally getting one at Georgia Tech.
"We knew coach hadn't won here since he'd been back," Hansbrough said. "That was in the back of our minds a little bit. But at the end of the game, we still had some lapses."
Williams wasn't surprised to get a close game from the Yellow Jackets, and it had nothing to do with the Tar Heels' losing streak in Atlanta.
"I though they would play well tonight regardless because when you start 0-2 on the road in this league and you come home, there is a sense of urgency I think your kids really feel," Williams said. "I knew they would be fired up."
The Tar Heels' second ACC road game of the season was about as tension-filled as the first, a 90-88 overtime win against Clemson to kick off the conference slate.
Having two narrow wins in three conference games might be even sweeter for this team than if they had been blowouts, given that last year's UNC team was unable to turn close games into victories.
"It says we've matured a lot," Green said.
Carolina led 48-46 at halftime after an opening period played a blistering pace, in which UNC shot 56 percent and Georgia Tech 51 percent.
The scoring slowed in the second half when both teams shot 38 percent, but Georgia Tech used a 14-2 run to take a 63-56 lead with 13 minutes to go.
That was a seemingly huge margin for a game with 16 ties and seven lead changes. But the Tar Heels hung in and stayed perfect on the season.
"Last year at this point, things were going the other way," Marcus Ginyard said. "We were losing these close games. It speaks volumes about this team to get that push to put us over the top."
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