Well, that was an annoying one. It’s been a while since North Carolina went in to Charlottesville and beat Virginia, but for a while it seemed like Tuesday might be the night. Carolina led for a long portion of the end of the first half and into the second, but eventually were overtaken and fell short.
Between Virginia being good and at home, and a playing style that’s given even UNC title winning teams fits, this was always going to be a tough game, especially with Pete Nance out. Armando Bacot then hurt his ankle on the Tar Heels’ first offensive possession and wouldn’t return. That only turned up the difficulty on things.
However for a while, they were not only keeping things interesting, but had a decent lead and what seemed like a decent shot at a win. A big reason for that was a potential breakthrough performance by Jalen Washington, who put up 13 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Initially after Bacot’s injury, UNC went small, but that didn’t particularly work, as they only scored three points in the first seven-ish minutes of the game. Washington checked in for the first time at at the 12:21 mark of the first half and then scored 10 of the Tar Heels’ next 19 points, as they opened up a nine-point lead. In total, he scored 12 points in the first half, which was only one fewer than his season total up to that point.
In the second half, Washington fell away, as he didn’t make a shot from the field and had just one point on a free throw. He also made a couple confounding decisions, including taking two threes, neither of which were in a “shot clock at two seconds, gotta throw something up” situation. However, in a second half where UNC were outscored by nine, his plus/minus for the half was -5, a portion of which came from the end game scenario as Carolina tried and failed to rally. When were going haywire, the points where he was resting on the bench were noticeable.
Outside Washington, the other real contender for player of the game is probably RJ Davis. He led the Heels in scoring, going for 16 points on 6-12 shooting, including 3-5 from three.
The drop in the second half and the fact that the team defense as a whole took a noticeable drop without Bacot means that Washington now probably isn’t going to get 25 minutes a game from here on out. However, it’s good to know that he has the potential to do that, especially considering the level of competition that he faced on Tuesday night.