UNC Basketball Game Review: UNC vs Virginia



North Carolina came into this game winners of five straight road games.  The 25th ranked Virginia Cavaliers have lost just one game at home this season.  A must win for both as Virginia is hanging onto their Top 25 ranking and fighting for seeding in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.  For UNC they are looking to stay atop the ACC conference standings and continue to make their case as a #1 seed.

How it went down: Tyler Zeller scored the first ten Carolina points as UNC started off hot.  UNC dominated the boards early allowing VA just three rebounds in the first eight minutes.  VA looked like they were almost accepted defeat on the boards and seemed more concerned with getting back than they were fighting for the rebound.  Mike Scott ran into foul trouble early with 2 quick fouls, VA as a team had 16 team fouls before Zeller picked up the first for UNC.

A 8-1 run brought VA back to within three at 18-15 at the seven minute mark, closing the gap for the first time in the first half and bringing the home crowd into it.  With Scott out the Cavaliers played more efficient, team basketball and forced three straight UNC turnovers to tie it at 20.  The Cavaliers took their first lead at the 4:30 mark off a three pointer.  The pace and momentum of the game had swung completely at this point.  Reigning ACC Player of the Week Harrison Barnes had a very quiet first half with just two field goals.  A miracle three at the end of the half put a stunned Carolina team down four 30-26.

The second half, was more of the same early as VA continued to control the tempo of the game.  With Scott and Zeller both back on the floor after long stretches on the bench in foul trouble.  Scott was able to energize the Cavaliers while Zeller was quiet for UNC.   A stretch of bad shots and poor execution riddled the first five minutes of the second for the Heels.

Evans destroyed Marshall by penetrating pretty much at will.  I would have liked to have seen Roy Williams try Reggie Bullock on Evans with Marshall struggling.  The acting job of the year goes to Henson after pretty much faking a foul and getting the call against Scott which would be his fourth.  A 5-0 run by none other than PJ Hairston finally put UNC in the lead at the 11 min mark.  The game kept to its back and forth theme the next five mins with Carolina clinging to a one point lead.

Just as Zeller ignited the team in the first half, John Henson lead the team in the second.  Scoring 11 of the teams first 20 points.  The Cavaliers kept the game close by controlling the tempo the rest of the game.  A UNC 52-51 lead was almost lost with an airball three by Bullock.  Carolina was bailed out by a stupid quick three by Scott on the end.  Marshall rocked the defense to sleep, found Zeller who threw it down with three left on the shot clock.  A three point lead with 13 seconds to play and a Virginia timeout set up an exciting finish.  UNC went full court press and used it’s foul to give cutting the time to 9.7 seconds left.  The Heel defense broke down and VA had a wide open three but missed.  Barnes missed the front end of the ensuing 1 and 1 with 2.2 seconds left, and another VA timeout with a chance to tie.  The nail bitter continued as Carolina used another of its 3 fouls to give.  And another timeout with 1.3 seconds left and the ball at mid court.  Evans got a clean look but fired strong from just inside the half court circle.  UNC escapes with the win, 54-51.

Key Takeaways: Stillman White looked solid pushing the ball up the floor and seems comfortable on the offensive end.  James Michael McAdoo continues to look improved and more sure of himself out on the floor for Carolina.  McAdoo didn’t put up huge numbers, and with Zeller and Henson in front of him, he may not this year.  But he’s giving the team solid minutes and is playing better and seemingly with more confidence each and every game.  Free throw shooting is what kept UNC in this ballgame, even John Henson was knocking them down in this one.  Every single time Hariston makes a shot I say a silent prayer that he gets on a roll and shows us the player we saw early in the season.

The biggest takeaway of all, another game has gone by and we’re still wondering.  Will UNC put together a complete, 40 minute game this season?

Player of the game: Tyler Zeller, no other player stepped up for Carolina and this might have been Marshall’s first “bad” game this year.  Zeller was the sole reason the team started hot and lead early.  He also made the play of the game with the dunk with 13 seconds to go.  20 points, 6 rebounds for Z on the night.

Up Next: Carolina hosts the Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday night and head to Durham to face Duke next Saturday in the regular season finale.  Virginia plays Florida State on Thursday and finishes up the season against Maryland on Sunday.