CHAPEL HILL — No. 5 North Carolina defeated No. 19 Virginia 70-52 here on Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center. A look back at the Tar Heels’ victory:
Why the Tar Heels won: The Tar Heels capitalized on their second-chance points on Saturday, turning 23 offensive rebounds into 23 points against Virginia, which entered as the best defensive rebounding team in the ACC. UNC outscored the Cavaliers 23-9 in second-chance points, and the Heels also outscored Virginia 40-20 in the paint. A good number of those second-chance points came in the paint, of course. Following a heartbreaking 85-84 loss against Duke on Wednesday night, the Tar Heels trailed by seven at two points during the first half, but they closed the half on a 15-5 to take a 35-32 halftime lead. The Heels finished game on a 9-2 run.
The good: There was lots to like about this victory from a UNC perspective. The second-chance points were instrumental for the Heels, who took 13 more shots from the field than Virginia did (68-55). Any time a team attempts 13 more field goals than its opponent, it’s going to create a significant advantage – or disadvantage, in the case of Virginia. Tyler Zeller was, as he has usually been since the conference schedule started, fantastic. He finished with a game-high 25 points and outplayed the Cavaliers’ Mike Scott, who finished with 18 points. The Heels also received some valuable contributions from their bench. James Michael McAdoo scored 9 of UNC’s 11 bench points, but fellow reserves Justin Watts and Stilman White played well, too. Finally, there probably wasn’t a UNC fan watching this game who didn’t think about that loss against Duke when the Cavaliers trimmed UNC’s 15-point lead to 11 with about four and a half minutes to play. The Heels erased any notion of a similar collapse, though, by closing the game on a 9-2 run.
The bad: Shooting, particularly from the outside, continues to be a problem point for the Tar Heels. They made just one 3-pointer against Duke and again made just one against Virginia. The Heels were 1-for-10 from behind the 3-point line and shot just 35.3 percent overall. Defensively, UNC also had a difficult time containing Virginia guard Jontel Evans, who easily penetrated UNC’s defense in the first half. He finished with just two of his 12 points in the second half.
Key stat: UNC scored 23 points off offensive rebounds, and outscored the Cavaliers in that category 23-9. Virginia entered the game as one of the best rebounding teams in the conference but the Heels controlled the boards on Saturday.
Key stat II: The Heels were 21-of-27 from the free throw line and made more free throws than Virginia attempted (13). Scott was in early foul trouble, and he picked up his third foul early in the second half. No one fouled out for Virginia but Scott, Sammy Zeglinski and Darion Atkins all finished with four fouls.
UNC player of the game: Zeller. His 25 points and 9 rebounds – and his outplaying of Scott – could make Zeller the way-too-early favorite for ACC Player of the Year honors.
Quotable: “He’s a very sensitive kid. It was tough on him. People were tough on him – and very, very, very unfairly. It’s something that he’s had a great, great year – he’s playing big-time basketball for us. And I couldn’t be happier for anybody and what he did right now.” –UNC coach Roy Williams on Zeller’s performance