That was probably more difficult than it needed to be and bore some resemblance to UNC's loss vs Miami without the losing part. Virginia Tech, like Miami, played a slow tempo and a zone defense for almost the entire game. The Tar Heels struggled against the Hokies' defense and didn't get much transition offense off turnovers resulting in one of the worse offensive games UNC has had in quite some time. UNC's raw offensive rating for this game was 98.0 which is the first time since the loss at Virginia UNC has been below 100. The Tar Heels 41.8% shooting is second worst shooting performance since the first NC State game in Chapel Hill and in the 11 game winning streak.
The trouble with this game was the offense. UNC did a decent job executing against the zone utilizing a big man in the high post and getting good looks at the rim. The problem was no one could hit anything at the rim. Brice Johnson in particular struggled going 1-6 from the floor and missing open jumpers in the high post. Kennedy Meeks was 1-5 and early on James Michael McAdoo missed some early looks. The core of UNC's first half offense was Leslie McDonald's seven first half points, five from Marcus Paige. Another complicating factor was the offensive rebounding did not happen at the rate it normally does. UNC leads the ACC with 40.1% offensive rebounding rate in ACC games. UNC was at 35% at halftime with many possessions finishing with only one shot. The offensive rebound rate actually got worse in the second half and UNC finished at 24.3% for the game.
Defensively speaking, UNC played well enough. Virginia Tech got some difficult shots to fall but holding the Hokies to 56 points, 37% from the floor and 30% from three. The defense did what it needed to do or the Hokies played offensively at a level they've played all season, take your pick. This game was made close by a poor offensive outing which included no appearance from Second Half Marcus Paige. After scoring five points and hitting a three in the first half, Paige only tallied four after halftime and missed all three attempts from beyond the arc. It is Paige first single digit scoring game since UNC lost at Virginia.
The Tar Heels were ultimately carried by James Michael McAdoo getting his offense going after struggling versus NC State. McAdoo scored eight straight points between the 7:03 mark and 2:54 left in the game to maintain UNC's tenenous control of the game. The free throw shooting nearly became an issue with McAdoo going 2-4 in the final two minutes and McDonald going 1-4. Fortunately for UNC, the one McDonald did hit gave UNC a four point lead with four seconds left sealing the game. The fifth year senior finished with 14 points while J.P. Tokoto had 12 points, seven rebounds and yet another vicious dunk to fill in the gaps.
This game felt very much like a good play/bad play kind of game. Every time UNC did something positive, it seemed like it was followed by a negating poor play. Both McDonald and Nate Britt had sequences of that nature. Still, a win is a win and even great Tar Heel teams have had inexplicably poor games against the league bottom feeders. One in parictular that comes to mind is UNC barely scraping by against Virginia in 2008 two days after the epic double overtime win over Clemson in Chapel Hill. It could very well have been a letdown/tired legs game for UNC given what happened on Wednesday night.. Or maybe UNC just hates playing in Virginia.
At any rate, it should have been easier but all that matters is UNC got the win. That's eleven straight for the Tar Heels and with an ACC record of 12-4, UNC is locked into a top four seed for the ACC Tournament. That means UNC will not have to play until Friday of the five day event, something not many thought was possible a month ago. UNC also matches the ACC win total from the 2013 team which had Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston on it. Needless to say, Roy Williams' coaching job this season has been amazing.