CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — No. 7 North Carolina defeated No. 25 Virginia 54-51 here on Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena. A look back at the Tar Heels’ 12th ACC win:
Why the Tar Heels won: They adapted. This wasn’t at all the type of game that UNC prefers to play. Virginia likes it slower, and UNC, of course, likes to push the pace as much as possible. But the Cavaliers played the pace they wanted. And the Heels finished with the result they wanted – a victory. UNC improvised, especially on its second-to-last possession when Tyler Zeller scored on a dunk to give his team a three-point lead with 13.3 seconds to play. The original play called for Zeller to set a screen on the play, but Kendall Marshall passed to Zeller, anyway. Zeller faked a shot, got his man in the air and drove the lane and finished. The play personified UNC’s ability to improvise on Saturday.
The good: The Tar Heels’ second-half defense. The defense, overall, against Virginia’s Mike Scott, who spent the game in foul trouble. Zeller’s start – he scored UNC’s first 10 points – and his finish, when he scored on that key dunk in the final moments. UNC’s ability to again rally in the second half, after trailing by as many as six with about 17 minutes to play.
The bad: Converting scoring opportunities into scoring. As a team, UNC made just 17 of its 51 field goal attempts. Zeller was 7-for-11, but the rest of the team just 10 of 40 from the field. Before Saturday, the Heels appeared to have broken out of a prolonged shooting slump, but they made just 2 of 14 3-point attempts on Saturday. UNC again also had difficulty keeping Virginia’s Jontel Evans out of the lane, but he’s one of the quickest players in the ACC.
Key stat: Virginia fans, who already thought the game was called unfairly, aren’t going to like this stat: UNC was 18 of 23 from the free-throw line. The Cavaliers? Just The Tar Heels’ second-half defense. The defense, overall, against Virginia’s Mike Scott, who spent the game in foul trouble. Zeller’s start – he scored UNC’s first 10 points – and his finish, when he scored on that key dunk in the final moments. UNC’s ability to again rally in the second half, after trailing by as many as six with about 17 minutes to play.
Key stat II: Over the final six minutes of the game, UNC allowed the Cavaliers just two made field goals. Overall, Virginia scored just 21 points during the second half.
UNC player of the game: Zeller. He finished with 20 points and six rebounds, and he carried the Heels early – and, as it turned out, he late, too.
Quotable: ““We wanted to go inside because we have a size advantage in there. But they did a great job of forcing us off the block. They did a great job of swarming John, for example, when he got it in. Late in the first half, we had it four feet from the basket twice in a row, within about 10 seconds [and] we didn’t even get a shot off. Their defense, they really swarmed the basketball.” –UNC coach Roy Williams