ATLANTA — North Carolina needed a boost after failing to win consecutive games in a rough February.
Now, just in time for a rematch with Duke, the Tar Heels are rolling again.
Freshman Joel Barry scored a career-high 15 points and No. 19 North Carolina established some late-season momentum by beating Georgia Tech 81-49 on Tuesday night, completing a sweep of the struggling Yellow Jackets.
Bolstered by a modest two-game winning streak, the Tar Heels close their regular season against No. 3 Duke on Saturday. Duke beat North Carolina 92-90 in overtime on Feb. 18.
Finally, North Carolina players have coach Roy Williams' permission to talk about Duke.
"Coach told us don't worry about Duke until we get this game over with," Berry said. "Now our mind is on Duke, and it gives us a lot of momentum."
North Carolina (21-9, 11-6) began the day one game behind fourth-place Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Justin Jackson had 13 points for North Carolina, which made 34 of 64 shots (53.1 percent).
Georgia Tech (12-18, 3-15) ended its regular season with four straight losses. The Yellow Jackets lost their top scorer, Marcus Georges-Hunt, to a right foot injury early in the game. He returned from halftime wearing a walking boot.
It was North Carolina's second runaway win over Georgia Tech this season, following an 89-60 victory on Feb. 21. The Yellow Jackets were close in all but three of their ACC losses, including the two to the Tar Heels.
"Those guys have been so competitive all year, I think they just ran out of gas," Williams said.
Georges-Hunt, who averages 14 points as Georgia Tech's only scorer in double figures for the season, limped off the court about 3 minutes into the game. He watched from the end of the bench the remainder of the half.
Coach Brian Gregory said Georges-Hunt will have X-rays on the foot on Wednesday.
"You hope for the best, but my experience tells me in a situation like that, it didn't look good," Gregory said. "He didn't hit anybody or step on anything. Unfortunately, sometimes those are the worst."
The inside scoring of Charles Mitchell, who had 16 points, and Demarco Cox, who had 14, wasn't enough to keep the Yellow Jackets close.
"I would say it hurts your team pretty bad when you lose your leading scorer," Cox said.
The cold-shooting Yellow Jackets missed their first 11 3-point attempts. Tadric Jackson finally ended the 3-point drought with less than 8 minutes remaining in the game. Georgia Tech finished 1 for 16 on 3s.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels' last two-game winning streak was Jan. 24 and 26 against Florida State and Syracuse, respectively. ... North Carolina has won six straight in the series with Georgia Tech. ... It was Berry's first game scoring in double figures.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have an open week before the ACC tournament, possibly giving Georges-Hunt a chance to heal. ... Only four Yellow Jackets scored in the first half.
North Carolina freshman swingman Theo Pinson, who had missed 10 straight games with a broken bone in his left foot, had five points, including a 3-pointer. "I was just so glad to get back out there," said Pinson, who had not played since Jan. 21.
Luke Davis, a point guard also recovering from a foot injury, made his first appearance of the season and had an assist.
Even before Georges-Hunt's injury, the Yellow Jackets were missing Quinton Stephens, who was held out with a strained abdomen. Josh Heath was sick and played only 14 minutes.
"We knew maybe being a little short-handed was going to put us in a tough spot," Gregory said.
Stephens participated in pregame warmups but couldn't convince Gregory he was ready to play.