ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech hardly resembled the team that North Carolina blew out six weeks ago in Chapel Hill.
"We played much more physical," said Young, a freshman forward. "We came out timid up there, and they got a big halftime lead on us."
Losing consecutive road games in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time in three years, the Tar Heels (24-6, 10-5) missed a chance to hold on to a share of first place in the league following Virginia's win over Virginia Tech.
"We were just so bad defensively in the first half, but I still go back and say that just because you're open doesn't mean you make shots, and they made shots," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "At halftime, I felt we were extremely lucky to be down seven."
Anthony Morrow added 18 points for Georgia Tech,
Brandan Wright had 22 points to lead North Carolina. Tyler Hansborough added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels.
Young drove the left baseline for a short runner at the 8:07 mark, matching Georgia Tech's biggest lead at 73-59.
But the Yellow Jackets (19-10, 7-8 ACC) failed to make a field goal after Zach Peacock's 12-footer from the right baseline made it 75-65 with 6:19 left.
"We kept talking to one another," Young said. "We let each other know that if we kept fighting out there we could win the game."
The closest North Carolina got in the second half was 77-73 on a pair of Hansborough's free throws with 1:55 remaining.
Ty Lawson's layup at the 4:44 mark cut the lead to 75-70, but was the Tar Heels final field goal.
Crittenton, who finished with 13 points, was 5-for-6 on free throws in the final 4:17. Though he committed a game-high five turnovers, the freshman point guard clearly was more calm than his first game against North Carolina, which forced him into seven miscues and allowed only three assists.
"This is a big win because they beat the mess out of us at their place," Crittenton said. "We came out of here with another huge ACC win."
North Carolina, attempting to secure a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, was coming off a two-point loss at Maryland, where it led by 12 with seven minutes remaining before collapsing down the stretch.
Hansborough, who scored a career-high 40 points in a 77-61 win over Georgia Tech last season, hit a combined 28-for-34 free throws in his previous two games against the Yellow Jackets. He was 8-for-12 on Thursday.
Williams, whose team hosts Duke to end the regular season this weekend, missed a chance to win his 100th game with North Carolina.
"Hopefully this will get us fired up for the Duke game," Tar Heels guard Marcus Ginyard said. "I mean, that's what everybody wants."
Georgia Tech gave its NCAA Tournament hopes a boost in beating an opponent with the nation's third-best RPI. The Yellow Jackets, at No. 51, had dropped two of three after failing to hold a seven-point lead with 3:41 remaining in a 75-69 loss at Virginia.
"There's always a need to finish the stretch of the season like that," Tar Heels forward Reyshawn Terry said of Georgia Tech. "And to beat a team very high in the rankings can only help."
In committing a season-high 28 fouls, Georgia Tech limited the Tar Heels' effectiveness on the glass to outrebound North Carolina 35-29.
"The rebounding thing is a big issue for us," Hewitt said. "When we lost games earlier, we lost them because we didn't block out. We have been setting some lofty goals in terms of our defensive rebounding over the last month. ... The fouls? We don't have any other way to play. We have to play tough, physical defense, and if they call fouls on us, they're going to call fouls on us. We're not going to finesse people."