Heels Hammer Hoos At JPJ

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Sylven Landesberg was held to only two points in the loss to Carolina.

Virginia coach Dave Leitao said it himself. It was going to take a “monumental” effort to take down Tyler Hansbrough and North Carolina after back-to-back ACC losses.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they couldn’t do much to stop either as the 6-9 senior led North Carolina to a dominating 83-61 victory. The Heels’ big man dominated the inside, forcing his way to the line 17 times, for 15 points, both John Paul Jones Arena records. He finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

Leitao wasn’t surprised that the Tar Heels and Hansbrough had given such a performance.

“When you give an excellent team a reason and obviously they had a reason, to batten down the hatches and clean up some things, and give them some time to work on it, it was going to take a monumental effort to withstand that,” he said.

The Cavaliers never led against No. 5 Carolina, who was reeling after back-to-back ACC losses. The Heels dominated on both sides of the ball, eliminating Virginia’s best weapons while maximizing their own.

Virginia’s leading scorer Sylven Landesberg was stifled by the UNC defense, held to a career-low two points. North Carolina keyed on the young guard from the outset, double-teaming him at times and clogging the paint with five players whenever he touched the ball.

“He’s going to be a complete player, there’s no question about it, ” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “Right now his game is more driving the ball to the hole so we tried to make sure we cut off his driving lanes. … He’s had a heck of year.”

Leitao highlighted the mismatch of experience between Landesberg and his opponent.

“There were two or three blue shirts around him when he tried to make a play,” Leitao said. “It’s very difficult when you look at it as a team that’s got experience and a reason to play and they are gearing their defense to stopping a guy that’s played 14 games of basketball. It’s a difficult position. He’s going to face that more. He’s going to have to continue to grow in his game.”

With Landesberg taken out of the mix, the Hoos struggled to penetrate into the paint. As a result, Virginia only made it to the line nine times, relying more heavily on 3-point shooting for success.

Landesberg wasn’t the only Cavalier struggling against Carolina. Point guard Sammy Zeglinski got into foul trouble early and was unable to make an impact. With two major pieces of the offense silenced, Virginia simply couldn’t execute on offense.

“We were trying to survive without Sammy playing well, without Sylven playing well, without Mike [Scott] playing well. The reasons I’m sure have a lot to do with both Carolina and us. … When you don’t have Sammy and Sylven bring your ‘A’ game, things like that are obviously [difficult to overcome] and unfortunately going to happen.”

Assane Sene struggled in the paint against Tyler Hansbrough.

Defensively, the Cavaliers’ struggled in transition against Carolina. Hansbrough wasn’t the only Carolina player lighting up the scoreboard as he was one of four Heels players in double digits. Danny Green, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington all picked apart the Virginia defense.

The Hoos’ half-court defense wasn’t nearly as bad as their transition defense, Leitao said.

“I’m sure when I look at if you go by percentage of us having sloppy possessions or turning it over, and leading to their baskets, it was well over 50%,” Leitao said. “I thought for the most part there was some leakage but we did a pretty decent job with our half-court defense but it was such a strain because their transition offense was very, very good.”

Calvin Baker agreed.

“I think we’ve really got to work on our transition defense. We thought we were a good transition defensive team but when you get up against a high competition team like that, it kind of exposed us so we know what we’ve got to do.”

The fact that it was the No. 5 team in the country who exposed their faults wasn’t any consolation to Mike Scott, who refused to make excuses for the loss.

“That would just be an excuse. We could have beat them. We saw them lose. They had their faults. They just played harder than us tonight.”


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