With a chance to clinch the outright ACC title Monday night, North Carolina played one of their worst games of the season against Virginia. The ten-point loss wasn’t ideal, but it’s far from a fatal blow for UNC.
This loss might have been unavoidable
North Carolina completely deserved to lose this game. They turned the ball over 14 times. They shot 35%. Their ACC Player of the Year candidate scored 7 points on 3-10 shooting. Isaiah Hicks’ foul total equaled the combined total of his points and rebounds. All of that went wrong for the Tar Heels. Yet, the feeling of “eh, whatever” is kind of inescapable when thinking back to the game.
Neither of the following things cost UNC the game, but they both played at least a factor: the referees were not great, and this was Carolina’s second game in three days. Add in those two factors to everything else that happened and it’s hard to come away especially mad.
It’s frustrating because Virginia didn’t play great either, but from the opening tip this just felt like a game North Carolina was going to lose. It’s not like this game exposed some fatal flaw in UNC. They just played badly against a team that’s frustrating to play against. North Carolina just can’t play that poorly again if they want any success in March.
The bench can step up when called upon
Weirdly, the players that played the worst against Virginia were the starters. Of the 14 turnovers UNC committed, 10 came from the starting lineup.
At one point in the second half, North Carolina had a lineup on the floor that included all of Nate Britt, Seventh Woods, Luke Maye, and Brandon Robinson. UNC was down but within striking distance. A lot of Carolina fans probably felt a bit uneasy about what was going to happen with that lineup on the floor.
However, that lineup did no damage, kept UNC in the game, and Virginia then went on to put away the game against the starters.
It might be a problem if UNC needs the likes of Seventh Woods and Nate Britt to play 20+ minutes, but against Virginia, and in general lately, they’ve provided some solid minutes.
This game better not have too much of an impact on Justin Jackson’s ACC POTY chances
Justin Jackson had a bad game against Virginia. As mentioned above, he scored 7 points on 3-10 shooting. He went just 1-6 from three. It’s unfortunate that this performance came in a high profile game late in the season, but it absolutely should not harm his ACC Player of the Year chances.
This was the first time he’s scored less than 14 in a conference game, and his first legitimately bad game in ACC play. He’s shot less than 40% in some conferences games already, but he still managed to have solid point totals in those games.
There are other solid candidates for the award, so a performance like Jackson’s on Monday night might have an impact for some voters. It just really shouldn’t torpedo his chances or anything.