There are three guaranteed things in life: death, taxes, and Virginia making another team play really ugly basketball. That is exactly what happened tonight in John Paul Jones Arena in UNC’s brutal loss against the Cavaliers, dropping the Heels to 7-5 in conference play and 12-7 for the season.
It’s difficult to even discuss what happened in games against Virginia, because we could almost certainly copy and paste game recaps from the previous years and it would be perfectly accurate. Tony Bennett’s pack line defense decimated everything that UNC wanted to do on the court, and his guys were able to knock down a lot more three-pointers than the Heels. Sam Hauser and Jay Huff combined for 35 points out of Virginia’s 60, and they went 7 of 11 from deep. Virginia’s star point guard Kihei Clark wasn’t quite as impactful on the offensive side of the ball, as he was held to just six points and didn’t knock down any of his three shots from the perimeter.
As for the Tar Heels, the one surprising bright spot was Walker Kessler’s impact in this game. He finished the game with nine points and five rebounds, which was refreshing to see particularly because of which team he was up against. Armando Bacot came close to matching his output, finishing the game with seven points and 10 rebounds. Overall it felt like the bigs still struggled quite a bit in this game, which isn’t the most surprising thing to say. However, this was perhaps one of the more frustrating performances they have had all season, as there were numerous missed opportunities at the rim to finish strong that were passed up for missed layup attempts. Having this many talented bigs is great for UNC, but only great if they are able to play like they are, well, big.
When it comes to perimeter play, it was virtually non-existent for the Tar Heels. Kerwin Walton was the only Heel to knock down a three in this game, and he finished 2-6 in that department. Virginia offered very little breathing room on any part of the court, and Carolina’s guards were constantly dealing with Bennett’s guys blitzing ball screens. It’s hard to fault anybody not named Kerwin Walton when it comes to not knocking down threes, but it also made UNC’s biggest weakness stand out substantially.
If we are looking for any positives in this game, there’s actually quite a few. The Heels led this game in the following departments: points in the paint, rebounding, second chance points, bench points, and fast break points. They also only turned the ball over eight times, which is incredible considering the type of defense they were up against. When it really boils down to it, this game was lost at the three-point line, but the missed opportunities in the paint will be hard to shake from our memories anytime soon.
Earlier today it was announced that UNC’s next game against Virginia Tech has been postponed. Therefore, the next time we will see the Heels in action will be against Louisville next Saturday at 6pm in Chapel Hill.