Tyler Zeller shoots the ball over Virginia Cavaliers forward Mike Scott (23) in the first half at John Paul Jones Arena.
Not all games are pretty. And this one was particularly ugly. Carolina made only 17 shots the entire game, and six of those came in the first ten minutes of play. Virginia ended the first half on a 24-9 run capped by a buzzer-beating Sammy Zeglinski three. UNC's offense sputtered, ignoring the inside game that was the only thing working for them, but luckily the defense was able to hold. The Cavaliers made one of their last nine shots, and despite some less than intelligent play down the stretch, UNC was able to eke out a win in a hostile arena.
If you're looking for bright points in the game, there was one and his name was Tyler Zeller. Sharing the court with his competition for ACC Player of the Year, Mike Scott, Zeller dominated. He scored the Heels first ten points, and would finish with twenty, despite spending a significant amount of the first half on the bench in foul trouble. His key play came with fourteen seconds left in the game, and the team with a tenuous one-point lead. Zeller got the ball outside the paint but inside the three-point line, faked the shot to get Akil Mitchell off his feet and then drove to the rim for a thunderous dunk. The Cavaliers had time to respond with a three, but Carolina also had fouls to give, and the two looks UVa did get didn't fall.
Scott, on the other hand, had a poor night. Always one to prefer a jumper to a post move, he couldn't shoot over the Heels' front line. He would finish with only six points, and twenty-two minutes of playing time, as he was plagued by silly fouls – one of which involved a good bit of acting on Henson's part. Zeller would finish the game with a bloodied nose, though, so don't buy Wahoo fans' protestations that the refs were in Carolina's pocket.
As for the rest of the play, well, Len Elmore's disgust was almost earned. Without Scott, UVa played better, while UNC rushed shots, and turned the ball over. Kendall Marshal had a sub-par game, with only six assists and some poor defense; Harrison Barnes would finish with only seven points, as his attempts to take the game over at times just led to errant shots. The only thing the Heels did well is rebound – not so much on the offensive side, but defensively, limiting Virginia to one-shot possessions. And with a small number of possessions playing Virginia gets you, keeping them from shooting goes a long way towards winning.
Virginia's a good team, albeit one who shouldn't give UNC as much trouble as they did. Still, one the road a one-point win is a good one, so don't read to much into the ugly way they went about doing it. In the end, they did hold up and not melt down like the Duke game. Sure if one last Zeglinski three had fell – and Reggie Bullock left him open enough that it was a definite possibility – overtime may have gone poorly for the Heels. Before Zeller's dunk, he had gone about three minutes without touching the ball, and the Heels were reduced to be pretty one-dimensional. They'll have to show more weapons than two tall guys in the paint if they want to succeed come March.