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UNC vs. Virginia: Three Things Learned

The Tar Heels are now 3-1 against the Cavaliers in the Hubert Davis era.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

They finally did it: the Tar Heels found a way to win a Quad 1 game last night against Virginia. The Heels sprinted out of the gate and dominated the first half, and while the Cavaliers punched back in the final 20 minutes, they weren’t able to do enough to steal the game back. It was arguably the most impressive game we’ve seen so far this season from the Heels, though truth be told, this is probably what should’ve happened in the first game between these two teams had Armando Bacot and Pete Nance actually played.

Regardless, the Heels finally got a big win that could sweeten their chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament, but they still need to win the rest of their regular season schedule to make it happen. Let’s discuss three things that we learned from the Heels’ impressive win.

Pete Nance really likes lemon Oreos, apparently

Let’s ignore the name of this section for a moment, because there’s something a lot more important to discuss: Pete Nance had his best performance as a Tar Heel against the Cavaliers, finishing the game with 22 points, two assists, two rebounds, and shot 70% from the field. Nance has been battling back issues all season long, so his performance was a bit of a surprise. He seemed like a completely different player in how he was attacking on both offense and defense, and even played with quite a bit of swagger. This is definitely the version of Nance that we hoped to see all season long, and while I could dwell on the fact that it took this long, I’m just glad that we got to witness this kind of performance from him.

After the win, it was revealed that Nance was gifted a tasty treat by Hubert Davis prior to the game.

I’ll be honest: I haven’t fully figured out Davis’ method of motivating his players yet, but apparently offering one of his guys his favorite cookies worked for at least one game. If this is truly what did it, maybe we all send Nance some Oreos before tomorrow’s game against Florida State.

No tape on his finger = January RJ Davis

RJ Davis has had one of the most perplexing seasons out of everyone who has struggled, and it’s hard to say that it’s even close. After catching fire in January, Davis injured his finger and had it taped for most of the February schedule. This pretty much ruined his three-point shooting numbers, and made it to where he was really only effective when he was attacking the basket. Thankfully against Virginia the tape was gone, and Davis was able to remind us of how good of a shooter he is.

Davis finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists while shooting 50% from deep. He only took four shots from deep in this one, but even his missed shots looked a lot better than they did when his hand was taped. Beyond his shooting, Davis overall looked like a more aggressive version of himself, and it showed in his ability to log a rebound double-double. We’ve all driven ourselves crazy this season by saying “If this guy can do X Y or Z, then the Heels are in good shape,” but I genuinely think that if Davis plays this way for the final two games, this team could suddenly be dangerous to face in the ACC Tournament.

Assists make everything look better

One of the biggest problems that has faced the Tar Heels this season is their inability to create plays. In some of their most frustrating losses, UNC’s assist numbers have been pretty low, mostly because of bad shot selection and an overall unwillingness to create plays for others. It’s really hard to win college basketball games playing that way, but it looks like they may have finally turned a corner in that department.

UNC logged 12 assists and 12 turnovers on 22 field goals, which is impressive considering the fact that they had eight assists and 13 turnovers in their loss against NC State. All five starters recorded at least one assist, and RJ Davis led the team with four. We spent a good amount of the season watching this team try to create offense for themselves as individuals, but they genuinely looked like they wanted to have success as a unit against Virginia. It is worth noting that the Cavaliers helped quite a bit in this department whenever they double-teamed Bacot in the paint, because it usually meant someone was open on the perimeter. However, we’ve seen this exact scenario go sideways quite a bit this season, so UNC deserves a lot of credit for playing quality team basketball.