Sammy Zeglinski of the Virginia Cavaliers skids down the baseline after being knocked down against by the North Carolina Tar Heels during play. North Carolina won 70-52.
It wasn't the best way to bounce back from a bad game, but it will suffice. UNC struggled to find the bottom of the net, and took way to long to figure a way around Virginia's double team, but the defense held strong until the Heels could close out the game with a 23-9 run. Considering the number of shooting guards Carolina had injured on the bench, it was a pretty nice win.
The poor shooting was pretty ugly, though. The Heels shot 35% from the field and missed their first nine three-pointers. And it was here that Virginia really missed Assane Sene, because Carolina crashed the offensive boards hard. Rebounding is one of the lynchpins of Virginia's defense, and UNC snatched 19 offensive rebounds from them. These second chances were critical, and the Heels made the most of them. It's the reason Tyler Zeller finished with 25 points, despite the Cavaliers' strategy of double and triple-teaming every time he was passed the ball.
It also helped that Mike Scott was limited to 27 minutes of action. He spent large swathes of time on the bench in both the first and second halves after picking up his second and third fouls, but even his performance late in the game was pretty lackluster. He only had four points in the last ten minutes, and frankly wasn't moving much without the ball. The combination of the pace and the effort he had to exert defending John Henson clearly took its toll. The only other big men Virginia played were Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins; the duo combine for five points and eight fouls.
Which brings me to James McAdoo. As the last bench player left standing, it made things a lot easier that he had a good game. And over eighteen minutes, he scored nine points, pulled in seven rebounds, and most importantly had two steals, all without committing a foul. It's a glimpse of what we expect to see from him over the next couple of years, and it left me the most excited I've been about the freshman all year.
I'm not sure how this game is going to look once the season is done. Virginia was ranked 20th, but I expect them to fall farther before the season is up. Even in a down year for the ACC, they're to thin without Sene. UNC will see the Cavaliers again in two weeks in Charlottesville, and as far as things go, it's a good team for the Heels to draw twice. Is this a turning point for UNC? I don't know. Playing Miami on the road on Wednesday will tell us more, but if Carolina wins there they'll build up a great deal of momentum after with Clemson and State. We may be looking back at this game as the beginning of a phenomenal run to end the regular season. In the grand scheme of things though, little has changed in the last week and a half. The team isn't as bad as the end of the Duke game would have you believe, but they haven't fixed all of their problems merely by beating Virginia by eighteen, either.