UNC Game Review: Tar Heels vs Virginia


UNC 70 Virginia 52 FINAL

UNC entered the game against Virginia looking to avenge the awful loss to Duke on Wednesday night.  The Tar Heel crowd was roaring early, this was a must win game for UNC.  The race in the ACC is anyone’s game now with last week’s flurry of upsets.  A Virginia win and they could make the conference a four team race.

How it went down: Virginia’s defense looked tough early.  The first points of the game weren’t scored until 2.5 minutes into the game.   It was clear early, Virginia has Mike Scott on offense and that’s it.  The first half was back and forth, filled with several offensive droughts by both teams.  A classic defensive battle is what this game looked like at the start.  Virginia put pressure on Kendall Marshall by driving the ball and challenging him off the dribble.  The Cavaliers were able to control the temp throughout the first half and keep the pace slow and led the Tar Heels for most of the half.  Virginia led for most of the half and held Carolina to zero FGs during a five minute stretch.  Harrison Barnes again started slow and forced a few bad shots in the lane and taking some ill advised threes early in the shot clock.  I beat this drum a lot but UNC needs Barnes to set the tone for this team early in the game and establish dominance.

Virginia ran into some foul trouble in the first half with several players racking up 2 or 3 fouls, putting pressure on their aggressive defensive style of play.  A 15-3 run by Carolina at the end of the half gave them the advantage at the break.  At the half the score: UNC 35 Virginia 32.

Roy Williams substitution patters continue to puzzle me.  Around the five minute mark, down six.  Roy pulled John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes.  After a heart breaking loss to Duke, playing a tough team like Virginia and down six, UNC needs to leave their stars in the game.

The second half started off frustrating for Carolina as well.  Virginia took the lead and looked more explosive and efficient on the offensive end.  Meanwhile Tyler Zeller ran into early foul trouble and Barnes continued to force bad shots.  Early in the second half it looked like the Tar Heels were worried about the ramifications of a second straight home loss.  The Heels were pressing, forcing bad passes and taking bad shots, finding themselves down early after taking the lead to close out the first half.

UNC reclaimed the lead at the 15 min mark on a Zeller hook and McAdoo FT.  The game remained close through the first six minutes, Carolinas biggest lead of the game to that point was just four points.  Virginia played resilient basketball, answering Carolina not allowing UNC to extend its lead.  The Cavaliers remained in the game with a chance to win because they continued to control the pace.  After a timeout at the 10 minute mark the Heels started to take control extending the lead to nine points.  The run wasn’t necessarily the result of anything other than Virginia misses easy shots and allowing UNC to get out and run.  By the seven minute mark the lead was 11 and Virgina had even more foul trouble and called another timeout as a feeling of desperation came over VA.

Down the stretch, UNC took control extending the lead to 13 at the five minute mark.  Defensively they did a nice job on Scott in the second half.  If I were a Virginia fan I would be very please with the teams reliance down the stretch.  Something I found odd, Roy called a time out at the 3 min mark today.  Where was that TO against Duke on Wednesday as UNC collapsed in the last 3 minutes?  Barnes continued to do nothing but force up bad shots in the second half.  Although you never want your star to struggle as bad as Barnes did today.  Roy Williams has to be encouraged by the fact that his team was able to play as well as they did in the second, without getting anything from Harrison.  The Tar Heels closed out Virginia in the final minutes with tough defense and efficient offense.  UNC seemed determined not to let this one slip away and finished strong.

Biggest TakeawaysJames Michael McAdoo looked good early scoring five quick points and attacking the basket with confidence.  He ended the first with eight points, four rebounds and and 2 steals, easily his best performance to date.  Is this a sign of things to come?  This is a team UNC should have shut down defensively from the gate.  They didn’t, they allowed Virginia to control the pace early and take them out of their game.  UNC has to figure out a way to avoid these type of starts come tourney time.  Stillman White looked good spelling Marshall.  Making the right passes, not forcing things and running an efficient offense in the half court.  UNC can’t buy a three pointer, Bullock now seems to be suffering from PJ Hairston disease slipping into his own shooting slump.  The Heels did a better job of defending the three in this game.  Virginia didn’t shoot the ball well from beyond the arc on its own, still UNC must improve in this area as the season goes on (feature on the perimeter defense in the coming days).

Player of the Game: I’m going with the freshman McAdoo here.  He wasn’t the best player on the floor for Carolina but he had his best game of his career.  He looked fluid and confident and UNC really needs him down the stretch.

Up Next: Carolina travels to Miami to play the Hurricanes on the road on Wednesday February15th at 7pm (ESPN). Virginia, travels to Clemson on Tuesday.

FYI: I was tweeted, emailed and even received some text messages by upset fans that couldn’t watch the game due to not having the ACC Network.  I urge fans to visit ESPN3.com whenever you don’t have the game available on TV.  Games are streamed live and for free, most of the time they are available in HD as well.
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