So there was a point in late December where I had a bad feeling about this team. Yes, UNC had beaten Louisville, Kentucky and Michigan State. But they had losses to Belmont, UAB and Texas. It dawned on me that UNC had reached a point where the number of games that were either losses or struggles to win against perceived inferior teams far outweighed the number of games UNC had played well and won. At 10-3 going to ACC play it was basically UNC beating three ranked teams and blowing out the two UNC system schools. The rest of the games were just not good despite playing teams that weren't good themselves. In other words, the writing was on the wall but no one really saw it because the three "big" wins provided hope. As it turns out wins in December carry very little currency in January.
Despite hanging tough with Virginia through the first 15 minutes of the game, a series of mistakes allowed Virginia to open up an eight point lead at the break on the way to a 76-61 over UNC. The Tar Heels are now 1-4 in ACC play for the first time in the Roy Williams era.
Surprisingly enough, UNC has done a decent job(even in losses) of starting the game well. Virginia didn't come out and blow the Tar Heels' doors off. The Tar Heels stayed with Virginia for 15 minutes until being undone by a litany of mistakes and missed shots. Virginia 12-2 run gave the Cavs a nine point halftime lead which shouldn't have been the end of the game but it certainly felt like it. With the state of UNC's offense and various breakdowns on the defensive end the game slowly and painfully slipped away. The ten minute stretch encompassing the end of the first and beginning of the second saw the Cavaliers move from down one to up 15. UNC did manage some offensive consistency through the rest of the second half but ultimately the contest came down to that stretch.
UNC show some signs of life with Kennedy Meeks who had 15 points and nine rebounds. This was Meeks' second straight double-digit scoring game. James Michael McAdoo continues to be aggressive which has been effective in UNC's productive starts. McAdoo continues to struggle at the line going 1-5 and finishing with 11 points. McAdoo became the 69th 1000 point scorer in UNC history on a dunk in the first half.
Outside of those two, there was a lot of carnage. Marcus Paige was 4-14 and had nine points continuing his ACC struggles. J.P. Tokoto fouled out of the game which included three turnovers and generally poor shooting night. And then there was Leslie McDonald who actually scored 10 point but was 2-7 from three and more importantly seemingly derailed the offense at times by looking for his own shot. The degree to which the halfcourt offense would screech to a halt when McDonald got the ball was palpable. Even if McDonald didn't end up shooting, he spent time dribbling and looking for a gap instead of passing to keep the offensive flow going.
Also of note is UNC actually won the rebounding battle and posted a 41.5% offensive rebounding rate which is well above what Virginia had been giving up this season. UNC continues to be unable to turn those rebounds into points as a high enough rate. In the end Virginia feasted off turnovers(17-8 in points off) and enjoyed a 24-12 advantage from three. That was more than enough for a Tar Heel team that continues to lose games by the compounding of mistakes and missed shots.
At 1-4 in ACC plays, the next four games will make or break the season. UNC plays three times at home then faces Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Any designs on salvaging something from this season must begin with beating Clemson on Sunday and going from there.