CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The idea that Georgia Tech could compete against No. 1 North Carolina on the road with three starting freshmen seemed silly by halftime Thursday night.
For all their new-found athleticism, the Yellow Jackets were no match in any facet for the explosive Tar Heels, falling 96-75 before a crowd of 21,572 at the Dean Center.
Carolina (16-0 overall, 3-0 ACC) tore to a 53-33 halftime lead while outshooting Tech 61 percent to 28. Tech (10-4, 0-2) never got within 20 points in the second half.
"We thought we could play with Carolina; we really did," said Tech coach Bobby Cremins. "We actually got off to a good start. But their rebounding and fast break were just awesome. It was unbelievable. They were really fantastic."
The Tar Heels had three players with at least 20 points for the first time in three years, led by Vince Carter with a game-high 22 points. Antawn Jamison, who fouled out with 7:06 to play, and Shammond Williams each hit for 20 each.
Tech senior Matt Harpring, who came in as the ACC leading scorer and rebounder, totaled 21 points and six rebounds. But of the three starting freshmen, only center Alvin Jones played well. Jones scored a career-high 18 points and led his team with 10 rebounds.
Dion Glover, who entered as No. 2 scorer in the nation among freshmen with a 19.8 average, managed 10 points and shot four for 21 from the field. Freshman point guard Travis Spivey scored five points on two-of-six shooting.
Freshman sixth man T.J. Vines scored only three points in 10 minutes.
"We were just too inexperienced," Harpring said. "Compared to us, it seemed like North Carolina has been playing together forever. They know each other's games and they really do the little things, like make the extra pass. I've been here four years and this is one of the best, if not the best, team I've played against."
Tech hadn't allowed an opponent to shoot over 50 percent this season, but North Carolina shot 56 percent, including 61 percent (8 of 13) on three-pointers. Carolina also won the rebounding battle 45 to 38, including 26-12 in defensive boards.
Tech started with a flurry, bolting to an 11-5 lead after a three-pointer by Spivey and back-to-back treys by Harpring within the first three minutes. But the lead vanished almost instantly, as Jamison hit a pull-up jumper from 12 feet and Williams scored five points off a turnover and block.
Carolina's most important points came a few moments later when Makhtar Ndiaye drove for a layup and drew a foul by Travis Spivey. Ndiaye missed his free throw, but Carolina rebounded and Williams hit an open three to put the Tar Heels up 23-14 with 13:14 left in the half.
During the remainder of the half, Carolina put on a dazzling display of basketball, dominating on both ends of the floor. Coach Bill Guthridge's post-game frets about inconsistency and lack of depth were almost hilarious.
"North Carolina was very good my freshmen year when they had (Jerry) Stackhouse and (Rasheed) Wallace," Harpring said. "This team might be better. As far as who would win between the two teams, this team might be better."
The lopsided loss shouldn't impact on the Yellow Jackets' season terribly. No one expected them to win at Carolina, and with 10 wins already in the bag -- including quality victories over Louisville (twice) and Miami -- postseason play remains a possibility.
Still, Cremins needs a better effort against Wake Forest at home Saturday.
"It's just kind of circle the wagons and get ready for the next game," he said. "We hung in there, but they were fabulous."
Carolina played its first home game in 23 days -- since a Dec. 16 victory over Hampton. A four-game road stretch included victories over Georgia (82-80 in overtime), Bethune-Cookman and Clemson.