That was less than ideal.
UNC managed a one point lead at the half but Virginia's vaunted defense squeezed the life out of the Tar Heels in the second half to take a 75-64 win in Chapel Hill.
Coming off the loss at Louisville, there was a question how the Tar Heels would come out. UNC had been worn out in an overtime game and with the bench still thin due to injuries a quick turnaround was a concern. UNC initially allayed those fears in the first half getting solid execution against the Cavalier defense and taking an early 16-10 lead. #3 Virginia promptly responded as the Heels went into a 4-12 shooting stretch after starting the game 7-9. The scoring struggles permitted the Cavaliers to take the lead but a Kennedy Meeks tip-in at the buzzer sent the Tar Heels to the locker room up 33-32.
The second half quickly began to resemble the second half at Louisville. Virginia's defense was as advertised shutting down the Tar Heel offense in every conceivable manner. The post offense which saw Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Joel James score 21 of UNC's 33 first half points was bottled up. Johnson scored just four after halftime, Meeks had two and Isaiah Hicks scored four, both on offensive put backs. As the game wore on, Virginia's defense frustrated and flustered the Tar Heels leading to rushed shots and turnovers. Marcus Paige went over 30 minutes of game time without scoring. In fact between Paige's made jumper with 15:14 left in the first half and his next basket at 2:23 of the second half, the junior guard attempted just four shots. The Cavalier defense on him was stifling and with no other shooters to draw attention or post scoring, the Tar Heel offense ground to a complete halt.
About midway through the half, the game devolved to a point where UNC could not score or get stops on the defensive end. While the second half at Louisville featured some poor shooting on the part of the Cardinals to keep the game within grasp, Virginia's highly efficient offense scored seemingly at will while the proverbial wheels went flying off on the offensive end. The Cavalier lead eventually grew to as much as 18 effectively putting the game out of reach. UNC staged a rally as UNC is wont to do but the hole was too deep.
Marcus Paige led UNC with 15 points on 5-10 shooting, four assists and two steals. On the surface that's a great line except it mostly occurred in the first five and final two minutes of the game. Brice Johnson scored 14 points and pulled eight rebounds while Kennedy Meeks, who has apparently been sick again, had 11 points and 7 rebounds. Nate Britt and Justin Jackson had 8 and 9 respectively.
After a second straight weekend of playing a Saturday-Monday pair of games, UNC gets a five day break before facing Boston College on the road then a week off prior to a trip to Pittsburgh. For a team that is bringing back former walk-ons and calling up JV players simply to have enough bodies to practice, the extra rest is much needed. It also affords the Tar Heels two opportunities to shake off a two game losing streak, continue to improve and get read for a February 18th trip to Durham.