If you missed the game and are just now seeing the score, I bet you're thinking that Virginia controlled the pace and slowed it down to a crawl. Well, you're wrong. The Heels pushed their transition game as hard as always, and although UVa would occasionally drain the shot clock down to the dregs – and then hit a ridiculous garbage shot – that was a result of Carolina's defense as much as anything else. No, this score remained in the fifties because neither team could hit a shot in the second half.
I'm not exaggerating; UNC made seven shots in 26 tries, while the Wahoos were 6 of 23. The difference came on the offensive boards, where the Heels out-rebounded their opponent 7 to 2 in the second half. With Virginia's frontcourt on the bench with fouls and injury problems for long stretches, the Heels could claw their way out of the hole they dug themselves and win their ACC opener on the road.
It was a struggle though. After an early first half lead of 22-13 at the ten minute mark, mostly built up while Assane Sene was on the bench with two fouls, Virginia came storming back, ending the half on a 14-2 run. The Heels panicked in the face of the UVa crowd, forcing bad shots early in possessions, and failing to get any points out of their big men. They had a scoring drought just shy of eight minutes that spanned halftime, during which the score went from 30-29 to 30-40, and only good defense kept the damage as small as it did. Eventually they would send Sene back to the bench with his third foul, where he would join Akil Mitchell, also hampered with fouls. Virginia truly was a different team without Sene, not something you'd think of a guy averaging 2.7 points a game. But the Cavaliers floundered nonetheless, getting nothing but poor shots and no second chances. UVa would have their own 6:44 stretch without scoring from the field, during which UNC's first team would return to the floor and struggle into the lead. After being up five with 1:13 to play, the Heels almost gave it back by allowing consecutive layups from Jontel Evans, but managed to keep it together and deny UVa a chance to tie. A series of free throws later, and Carolina gets their road win.
That being said, there was a lot to complain about. The Heels' shooting was poor; their first reaction to pressure was even worse. John Henson spent the last two minutes on the bench for the sole reason that he's such a liability on the free throw line Roy Williams couldn't risk having him fouled. Tyler Zeller was too easily flustered by Sene, and after a good start the turnover problem raised its head again. The defense remained strong in the second half, however, and got Carolina the win. With a tougher game against Virginia Tech on the horizon, it's a decent start if the team keeps improving.