It’s very hard to beat a team three times in a season, and Virginia Tech made sure UNC knew that Friday night when the Hokies stomped the Tar Heels out of the ACC Tournament with a 72-59 win. The Carolina offense was ice cold from long distance and very sloppy with the ball, culminating in a disappointing finish to the semifinals.
Armando Bacot had one of his patented double-doubles with 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead the team before fouling out late. Caleb Love really struggled from the field, making just three of his 17 shots including two of 10 from beyond the arc. He was far from the only player to suffer from being ice cold tonight, but he was certainly insistent on trying to shoot through it. As a whole, the team shot just 36% from the field and an abysmal 12% from long distance.
The game was at least relatively close at halftime with UNC trailing by six points. Unfortunately, Virginia Tech came out of the locker room like gangbusters and scored the first nine points of the second half to really put the Tar Heels in a hole that they would never climb out of. Carolina did go on a 9-0 run that brought the deficit down to 11, but it was short-lived. A three+ minute scoring drought from Virginia Tech late in the second half gave UNC an opportunity to make a run at it, but the result never really felt in doubt.
Certainly, turnovers are not the only reason UNC lost, but they were a big contributing factor. The Hokies scored 12 points off 11 turnovers, making up at least a significant part of the final deficit. It’s hard to win against good competition when you’re serving up that many points off your own miscues. The depth that the Hokies have also presented a problem, with their bench being able to chip in 30 points to their final total. Darius Maddox, the Hokies’ savior in their first win of the tournament, was responsible for 20 of those points.
UNC’s bench, as we’ve become all too familiar with, proved to be more of a liability than a boost. Defensively, things got much worse with substitutes on the floor with Hubert Davis managing fouls and minutes in the first half. Offensively, the only points from the bench came in garbage time.
It was a disappointing performance from a team that has been really good lately. Many expected an emotional letdown from the Tar Heels after their big win over Duke on Saturday, but it just came a game later than expected. A win tonight would have set up a third game against Duke this season with the Blue Devils undoubtedly eager for revenge. While it would have been sweet to hand them another loss and get a championship in the process, saving the blood pressure medicine for the NCAA Tournament is okay too.
UNC will await their fate on Sunday when they find out where they will be headed in the NCAA Tournament.