Sean Singletary had 29 points and 10 rebounds in the loss to UNC on Friday night.
In the end, North Carolina simply had more weapons in the arsenal. Despite a gallant effort by Virginia in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals, the Tar Heels pulled out a 79-67 victory on Friday. UNC placed four players in double figures in the win, led by Reyshawn Terry’s 24 points. For Virginia, on the other hand, just four players scored more than 6 points with Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds combining for 49.
“Tonight they had a ton of options to come at us with, while we put a lot of pressure on Sean and J.R.,” Leitao said. “We didn’t have guys behind them making plays when we needed. We have two very good guards that night in and night out put their hearts in it, but we need everybody to be on board. We can’t just rely on our two primary players to make every single play.”
In addition to Terry’s superb outing (7 rebounds as well), Carolina received strong contributions from David Noel (10 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists), Tyler Hansbrough (17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals), and Wes Miller (15 points, 3 rebounds). Terry, Noel, and Hansbrough helped the Heels control the glass 43-36.
“I was really pleased for Reyshawn. I saw a clip on the TV while I was scouting the game last night that said Reyshawn was 8 for 29 the last three games. Well, he was 8 for 13 tonight so he played pretty doggone well,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “I thought he was big for us in the second half taking the ball to the basket and getting the ball off the boards for us. I thought Tyler was about the way he’s been all year. Even when he plays not up to his standards, he’s still pretty doggone good.”
UVa meanwhile relied on Singletary and Reynolds to keep the Cavaliers in the contest. Singletary finished with an impressive line worthy of a first-team All-ACC player. He put up 29 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, and 1 assist in the loss. The sophomore was one of only two Hoos to crack 40 percent shooting with a 7 of 16 effort (44 percent). Mamadi Diane made 3 of 7 shots to finish at 43 percent; he had 8 points and 2 steals.
“They made more shots than us. We got open looks on the offensive end. We just weren’t able to knock down everything, knock down some of the easy shots,” Singletary said. “They got a lot of transition points and a lot of put-backs.”
“Defensively, they’re hard to guard with those two little guards [that have] great quickness, great ballhandling ability, and curling around those screens. Dave Leitao and his staff have just done a great job with that club and I mean that sincerely,” Williams said. “Their two kids, J.R. and Sean Singletary , make it a load for you. David did a great job of designing a plan to make sure they kept driving the ball to the basket and we didn’t do a very good job of guarding them, except for fouling them. And 26 out of 29 at the free throw line, and in fact, 24 out of 26 for the two of them put us in foul trouble and it was very uncomfortable over there for us a lot of the time tonight.”
Reynolds struggled from the field, making just 3 of 16 shots. As Williams noted, Reynolds made up his points at the free throw line, where he converted 12 of 14 attempts. The junior also added 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
Laurynas Mikalauskas did a reasonable job on Hansbrough defensively, but contributed just 6 points on 3-of-8 shooting. He had 5 rebounds.
The Cavaliers never folded in the game despite falling by 45 points at UNC just nine days ago. In fact, the Hoos came out swinging. Virginia opened the game with a 14-4 advantage as Carolina committed several turnovers and missed several contested shots. Reynolds capped the game-opening burst with a break-away lay-up at 13:37.
Tyler Hansbrough and UNC lost in Charlottesville, but won the next two in Chapel Hill and in the ACC Tournament.
“I think we are very fortunate to continue playing. I thought Virginia was much more aggressive and much more intelligent, particularly early in the game,” Williams said. “One of the reasons why I didn’t want to play Virginia is because of what happened nine days ago. If somebody beats me by 45, I’m going to be so fired up, it’s going to be unbelievable. At the same time, I told them in the locker room that made it one-to-one. They had beaten us in Charlottesville, we had beaten them in Chapel Hill and this was the rubber-match. The number at the end [isn’t important], it’s still a ‘W’ or an ‘L.’ I would have been extremely fired up and I think that Dave had his club really focused and I think perhaps that night had something to do with it.”
But North Carolina, one of the hottest teams in the country, responded with an 11-0 run to erase the deficit and take the lead. Quentin Thomas’ 2 free throws at 10:29 were the go-ahead points as UNC took a 15-14 edge. Singletary’s offensive rebound and score on the next trip momentarily stopped the spurt and it gave UVa a 16-15 lead. It was the Cavaliers’ final lead, however, as Miller canned a 3-pointer on the other end to jumpstart another 9-0 burst by the Heels.
The Hoos battled back to a 24-24 tie with six straight points from Singletary and a pair of free throws from Reynolds, but Carolina edged out to a 5-point halftime lead at 39-34. Immediately after intermission, the Tar Heels rattled off 6 unanswered points for a 45-34 lead and Virginia could not get any closer than 5 points for the remainder of the contest.
After the 80 minutes of basketball we had on this stage, we can walk away knowing that we competed hard enough [to be successful] while also learning lessons that will hopefully help us when we are at this point again,” Leitao said.
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