Virginia forward Mike Scott posted 18 points.
Simply put, it’s hard to win games against North Carolina when you barely crack the 50-point barrier. The Virginia men’s basketball team’s periodically sluggish offense couldn’t keep pace with the Tar Heels on Saturday in a 70-52 ACC defeat. The Cavaliers produced just 11 points in the final 16 minutes of the disappointing loss.
UVa coach Tony Bennett said his team will have to try to bounce back quickly.
“That’s the beauty of the ACC. Every game out is a war,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “We’ll have to respond. That’s going to be the challenge. We’re going to have to come together and fight and see what we’re made out of.”
On Saturday in Chapel Hill, the Cavaliers (19-5, 6-4 ACC) fought but fired mostly blanks during the second half. Virginia led 41-39 when the under 16 media timeout came at 15:59, but it couldn’t keep the momentum going. Over the game’s final 15:59, UVa made just 5 of 21 shot attempts (23.8%) and 1 of 2 free throws (50%). The visitors also committed 4 turnovers during that span.
While the Hoos’ offense caught the chills, UNC started to pull away at the Dean Dome.
Tony Bennett’s team couldn’t keep pace on the glass against UNC.
The hosts outscored Virginia 31-11 during the decisive stretch thanks mostly to offensive rebounds. The Tar Heels (21-4, 8-2 ACC) grabbed 11 of their 23 offensive rebounds in that final 16 minutes, leading to extra opportunities. For the game, UNC scored 23 second-chance points and owned a 52-32 advantage on the glass overall.
It reminded Bennett of the early problems with rebounding against NC State.
“We certainly couldn’t keep them off the glass and our chance against them was to be real physical with our block outs, go get bodies, and have everybody rebound,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “They made us in a stretch of the second half just look like boys among men and that happened to us at NC State to start the game. When they get second chance opportunities that just kills us because they actually didn’t shoot it at a great clip but they had so many more attempts at the hoop. We just couldn’t contain them and couldn’t limit their offense rebounds and that was really the story.”
Add foul trouble to the cold shooting and large rebounding deficit and you’ve got a recipe for humble pie. The Hoos lost by double figures for the first time this season as Mike Scott and others battled through foul problems; UNC made 21 of 27 free throws, while Virginia finished 9 of 13 at the line. UVa had lost four games by 10 total points before Saturday’s 18-point setback.
Scott still managed to post a solid afternoon despite playing just 27 minutes due to the first-half foul trouble (he sat the final 9 minutes of the half). He put up 18 points and 6 rebounds.
He didn’t get much offensive help, though. Only Jontel Evans reached double figures as he recorded 12 points, 8 of which came in the moments following Scott’s first-half foul trouble sent him to the bench. Evans also added 5 assists. Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins recorded 5 points and 9 rebounds combined.
The wing rotation of Joe Harris , who injured his left hand in some fashion (severity unknown at game’s end), Sammy Zeglinski, and Malcolm posted just 17 points on 5-of-22 shooting. Harris chipped in 8 points and 5 rebounds, but he shot just 2 of 9 from the floor. Seven of Harris’ points came in the first four minutes of the second half as he made two 3-points and a free throw to give UVa the aforementioned 41-39 lead. Zeglinski made 1 of 7 shots for 3 points, but he did grab 6 boards. Brogdon added 6 points on 2-of-6 shooting; he pulled down 4 rebounds. Paul Jesperson went 0-2 in 5 minutes.
“It was very cold. I’ll look at the tape, but I thought we got pretty darn good looks, some real good rhythm shots. Again, you’ve got to take those and to be successful in this environment … when you get good looks at the rim or rhythm shots, you’ve got to make a nice percentage of them,” Bennett said. “The looks were there. They weren’t dropping. We’ve had that happen before but you can’t have both. You can’t be off shooting and then all of the sudden have some breakdowns defensively on the glass or in some other areas and expect to be in the game against a talented team like North Carolina.”
As a team, UVa made 3 of 16 attempts from 3-point range. The Hoos shot 36.4% overall for the game.
“Get some reps, keep working on your game, get in the gym and shoot, gain some confidence – you have to be able to shoot with confidence,” Scott said of improving that stat on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “I don’t know what it is. I don’t know. We just keep missing ’em.”