North Carolina fell apart during the second half of its 61-52 defeat at Virginia on Sunday. ROBERT WILLETT
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Here's the story of the game from John Paul Jones Arena. And, as usual, the look back …
Three things to take away from the Tar Heels’ defeat:
1. One step forward, two steps back.
All those good vibes from the victory last week against UNLV, all that talk about how the Tar Heels could use that game as a springboard … it’s mostly meaningless now. Sure, we can still look back at the victory against UNLV and have a good indication of the Heels’ potential. But for that game to mean what UNC wanted it to mean, UNC needed to build off of it. And the Tar Heels failed to do that at Virginia. The Cavaliers deserve some credit. They played well during the second half. But the Heels were left searching for answers after a puzzling performance.
2. Where was the energy and the intensity?
Not to harp on the UNLV game but anyone who watched it noticed how hard the Tar Heels played. So where was that effort here tonight in UNC’s ACC opener? Granted, Virginia has a way of making opposing teams look sluggish. That’s what the Cavaliers’ style of play does. Even so, the Heels appeared to be going through the motions, especially during the second half when Virginia went on an 18-4 run to take control. UNC showed little fight during that stretch, and even after it cut Virginia’s lead to one with less than four minutes to play, it then followed that up by going about three minutes without scoring.
3. Defense continues to be a problem for the Tar Heels.
The game turned during the second half for two reasons, primarily. For one, the Cavaliers shot well from the outside and made four of their seven 3-point attempts (which is exactly what they made in the first half, too). More important, though, Virginia point guard Jontel Evans successfully penetrated the UNC defense and created scoring opportunities for his teammates. Evans didn’t have a turnover in the second half. And Virginia only had two turnovers in the second half, after committing nine during the first half.
UNC player of the game:
Reggie Bullock. Overall, the Tar Heels appeared to lack energy but Bullock was the exception. He led UNC with 22 points, made seven of his nine attempts from the field and also added five rebounds. He didn’t have a turnover.
--Jontel Evans didn’t finish with an overwhelming statistical line on Sunday night. But in his first game since Dec. 5, Evans was the difference for the Cavaliers, UNC coach Roy Williams said. Evans, who was Virginia’s starting point guard a season ago, came off the bench and finished with eight points in 21 minutes but, more important, he didn’t commit a turnover during the second half. Williams said Evans’ penetration and ability to set up teammates was instrumental in UNC’s defensive failures during the second half.
--North Carolina again struggled from the free throw line, where it made just nine of its 17 attempts. Outside of Reggie Bullock, who was 4-for-4 from the line, the rest of the Heels were just 5-for-13. In an odd discrepancy, Virginia committed the first seven fouls of the game, while UNC was called for the final six fouls of the first half. The first of those, which came with 4:44 remaining before halftime, brought a loud cheer from the home crowd.
--Virginia frequently double-teamed the Tar Heels’ post players when they received a pass on the interior, and UNC didn’t manage those situations well. The Heels and Cavaliers both scored 24 points in the paint. Said Reggie Bullock, the UNC junior guard: “We worked on that strategy in practice, about them doubling the post, and where people should be when they’re getting doubled. It just wasn’t effective for us when they actually did it in the game.”
“ACC basketball, on the road – and all those are good excuses. But we just didn’t freaking play.” –UNC coach Roy Williams on why his team didn’t play with the same intensity it did against UNLV
“Sharing the ball. Making mental mistakes. Not getting to the boards. Not finding shooters in transition. Things that we work on every day in practice, and we just didn’t do it in crunch time when we needed it most.” –UNC guard Reggie Bullock on what went wrong after UNC built an eight-point lead early in the second half
“He didn’t really say much. He just said practice tomorrow at 3 o’clock. He didn’t say much.” –UNC guard Dexter Strickland on what Williams told the team after the game
“I don’t know man, honestly. I wish I knew. I don’t know.” –UNC forward James Michael McAdoo on why the Tar Heels’ intensity seemed to be lacking
UNC hosts Miami on Thursday night at the Smith Center. The Hurricanes began ACC play with a 62-49 victory at Georgia Tech on Saturday.