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UNC advances to ACC Tournament semifinals after pounding Virginia

Whew, that was a beating.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-North Carolina vs Virginia Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It was reasonable to wonder if UNC expended all of their emotions in the big win over Duke last Saturday and wouldn’t be able to come out with the same intensity against Virginia in the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels wasted no time alleviating those fears as they jumped on the Cavaliers early and proceeded to stomp around a bit for the remainder of their 63-43 win.

Truly, the final margin of victory paints a picture of a game closer than it was. Reasonable people could have gone to bed at halftime with the Tar Heels leading 33-13 and felt good about the chances of waking up to good news. Virginia’s 13 points were the lowest in a half of an ACC Tournament game in the shot clock era. Woof.

Carolina was led by Brady Manek, who out-scored Virginia all by himself in the first half and into the second. He finished with 21 points and seven boards. Armando Bacot and Caleb Love joined him in double figures with 10 each. Bacot recorded his 24th career double-double to set a new record at UNC, breaking the old record held by Brice Johnson. RJ Davis had eight points, eight rebounds, and six assists with Leaky Black throwing in six points of his own.

Black did a tremendous job guarding the ever-pesky Kihei Clark. The diminutive Clark certainly struggled against Black’s length and it gave him fits as he scored just seven points. Jayden Gardner was the lone Cav to eclipse the double digit mark with 17, a huge credit to the Tar Heels’ defense. Virginia shot just 19% in the first half which really sealed their fate. They were helped by a 52% mark from the field in the second half, which came after UNC had comfortably raced ahead, but it was pretty impossible to overcome scoring fewer points than only Manek had at halftime.

Carolina now advances to the semifinals in Brooklyn to face Virginia Tech at 9:30. The Hokies knocked off Clemson in overtime on Wednesday and took down the #2 seed in the tournament, Notre Dame, earlier on Thursday.