Although the Virginia Cavaliers forced North Carolina to adapt more to their frustratingly slow pace of play, it was the Tar Heels who thrived on Saturday night at the Smith Center. Justin Jackson had a strong offensive game, scoring a game-high 20 points, as the UNC held UVA to the lowest point total in the Roy Williams era.
Virginia couldn’t buy a shot from behind the three-point line until the late minutes of the second half. They shot just 10% from long distance in making just two of their 20 attempts. Carolina held Virginia to just 28% on field goals.
The Tar Heels nearly doubled up UVA in the rebounding department, which has been their strength all year. They also easily out-scored Virginia in the paint, 34-18. Jackson hit four of his eight three-point shots as the only player to make more than one shot from beyond the arc.
Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks also turned in strong performances for the Heels, scoring 13 and 10 points, respectively. Hicks had a couple monster dunks worthy of the highlight reel. It was a good redeeming performance after he was a non-factor against NC State because of foul trouble.
Carolina held the Wahoos to just 19 points in the second half after UNC lead at halftime 34-22. It was one of the more complete performances for this team all season, and definitely a strong one on the defensive front. Their perimeter defense has been rightfully criticized at times, but a combination of that and Virginia taking some bad shots was effective tonight.
The Tar Heels should be credited with being about to succeed at a tempo that goes against everything they are built to do. Many teams could and would crumble when being forced out of their element, but the Heels rose to the occasion tonight. They definitely had their moments of more Carolina-paced basketball, but Virginia still slowed everything to a crawl for huge chunks of the game. Carolina accepted the challenge and succeeded.
UNC is back in action on Wednesday at the Smith Center when they take on Louisville at 9:00 pm ET.