Nassir Little, Coby White Pace No. 11 UNC to Blowout Win vs No. 10 Virginia Tech

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2019

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 21: Luke Maye #32 and Kenny Williams #24 of the North Carolina Tar Heels defend a drive by Wabissa Bede #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies during the first half of their game at the Dean Smith Center on January 21, 2019 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The 11th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels earned their fourth win over a ranked opponent, defeating the No. 10 Virginia Tech Hokies 103-82 at Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The freshman duo of Nassir Little and Coby White played starring roles in the win. Little had 23 points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench, while White scored a game-high 27 points and added seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.

The Tar Heels shot 53.7 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from three-point range as a team.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. led the way for the Hokies. The junior forward posted a double-double (19 points, 17 rebounds).

     

Coby White Climbing NBA Draft Boards After Big Game

While his freshman season isn't quite going according to plan, Little has long been the best NBA prospect on the Tar Heels' roster. Slowly but surely, White is bridging the gap on his teammate.

White had 13 points in the first half Monday. With North Carolina's offense sputtering out of the gate, the freshman guard provided a necessary spark for the Heels to take over. White hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the home team its first lead, 31-29, with three minutes, 45 seconds left in the opening frame. Those shots were part of a 32-9 run by North Carolina to close out the half.

As much as Little's performance bodes well for the Tar Heels' national championship hopes, it likely doesn't mean much for his NBA draft stock. ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony projected Little to be the third overall pick in his most recent mock draft, though Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman was much lower on the 6'6" forward, ranking him 22nd on his big board.

Monday's game was a great showcase for White, who bumped his three-point percentage up from .355 to .365 after going 5-of-11 from beyond the arc against Virginia Tech.

Not only does the combo guard warrant first-round consideration in 2019—assuming he makes himself eligible—he could climb into the lottery by the time the draft rolls around in June.

      

Virginia Tech's Lack of Depth Exposed During UNC's Pivotal 1st-Half Run

When Virginia Tech has all of its best players on the floor, it can hang with the elite teams in the country. Take one of the Hokies' top stars out of the equation, and things can fall apart.

Not coincidentally, North Carolina's first-half run started after Justin Robinson picked up his third foul. The senior guard didn't play the final 9:52 of the first half.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker also picked up his second foul at the 10:48 mark of the first half, which forced head coach Buzz Williams to take him off the floor. Alexander-Walker returned with 2:03 left but then picked up his third foul less than a minute later.

Of course, North Carolina was already up 39-29 when the sophomore guard re-entered the game, so his third foul wasn't exactly a turning point.

This loss was a reality check for Virginia Tech. Based on their record, the Hokies deserved to be in the top 10 of the most recent Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches Polls. But they've now played North Carolina and Virginia and lost by a combined 43 points.

Maybe Williams can figure things out by the time the NCAA tournament arrives, but there's only so much he can do with what looks like a limited roster.

      

What's Next?

North Carolina is off until Jan. 29, when it starts a two-game road trip. The Tar Heels take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets before a matchup against the No. 23 Louisville Cardinals on Feb. 2. Virginia Tech hosts the Syracuse Orange on Saturday in Blacksburg.

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