Heel Tough Blog: Virginia Recap
Last night inside a raucous Smith Center, arguably for the first time all season long, Carolina rose to the occasion and took down #6 Virginia, 71-63 to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Entering yesterday’s action the Tar Heels found themselves on the outside looking in for this year’s Big Dance, and a loss in another Quad 1 game, would’ve put them in an impossible position to make their way into the field of 68. The Tar Heels set the tone early, running out to an 18-10 lead, as they controlled the game from the opening tip, and never looked back. Four starters scored in double figures led by Pete Nance, and his game-high 22 points, on 7-10 shooting, including a perfect 4-4 from behind the arc. R.J. Davis recorded the third double-double of his career, scoring 16 points on an efficient 5-10 shooting. Armando Bacot had a quiet 11-point, and rebound performance, as he played only 24 minutes. Lastly, Caleb Love struggled from the field, going 2-12, but was 5-6 from the foul line, to score 10 points.
Carolina shot a blistering 58% in the first half, against a better defensive team in Virginia, after shooting 19% in the first half at Notre Dame on Wednesday. Furthermore, Carolina was 9-16 from behind the arc, proving that old saying from Roy Williams, that everything does look better when the ball goes in the basket. But as impressive as Carolina started the game on offense, it was their defense that fueled their offense, as they limited the Cavaliers to 25% shooting from the field, and controlled the backboards 17-11. For the game, Carolina shot 47%, compared to just 40% for UVA. UNC made 10 three-pointers to open up the pack line defense deployed by Tony Bennett, as Carolina was able to pick their attacking spots on offense.
When the season started, nobody envisioned Carolina would be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives in the last week of the regular season, but that’s where they find themselves, and as long as they keep winning, they'll hear their names called on Selection Sunday. Here’s what to take away from yesterday’s massive win against Virginia:
Pete Nance: Yesterday had to feel good for Nance, who has struggled all season long to find his footing in Chapel Hill. and as a result has drawn criticism (from this writer included), which drew the ire of Hubert Davis. He was efficient from the field, scoring 22 points on 7-10 shooting, but more importantly, just looked more confident when shooting the basketball. A lot like Brady Manek last season, Nance is going to be the key to this team putting it all together, and making another March Madness run.
Perimeter Shooting: Hubert Davis has said during the season that he believes this is a good shooting team, despite the ball not going in the basket. Last night proved just that, as Carolina shot 58% in the first half, all while making 9 tiples. For the game, Carolina was 10-22 from behind the arc, after going just 14-75 from deep since making 15 against Clemson two weeks ago. More importantly, the perimeter shots came in the rhythm and flow of the offense, and that’s why they were rewarded with such a good shooting performance.
Rebounding: Even though Armando Bacot had a quiet game overall, UNC still won the rebounding margin, 37-32 to control the game. What’s arguably more impressive is that Carolina only had 3 offensive rebounds, but when shot like they did in the first half, there aren’t many chances to grab your misses.
Assists: Ball movement is the key to any good offense, and Carolina’s was crisp last night, as they assisted on 12 of their 22 made baskets. R.J. Davis led the way with four, as every starter registered at least one assist. That type of ball movement needs to stay prevalent going into tomorrow’s game against Florida State, and the home finale against Duke.
Special Teams: It’s not every game that you win when you don’t score any points in transition, zero points off of turnovers, or score just 4 second-chance points, but that’s what happens when you shoot the way Carolina did, combined with as good a defensive performance we’ve seen at home this season.
Up Next: Carolina is back in action tomorrow night, as they travel to take on Florida State at 7 PM on ESPN.