UVa’s Mike Scott managed just 6 points due to foul trouble vs. UNC.
Virginia held North Carolina to a season-low 54 points, but it was not enough. The Cavaliers went scoreless in the final three minutes of the game at the John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday, eventually falling to the seventh-ranked Tar Heels 54-51.
Like the last meeting in Chapel Hill, the Virginia big men were plagued by early foul trouble. Mike Scott picked up his second foul with 8:43 left in the first half. Akil Mitchell finished the first half with three fouls, while Darion had two. Virginia was forced to play the final four minutes of the first half with a lineup of Jontel Evans , Sammy Zeglinski, Malcolm Brogdon , Joe Harris , and Atkins on the floor.
“It was frustrating,” Mitchell said. “You kind of get going a little bit, and the next thing you know, you’re on the bench with three fouls. It’s tough to get going offensively and defensively when you’re in foul trouble.”
Fortunately, the small lineup was productive for Virginia. The Cavaliers closed out the half on an 18-6 run and led by four at the half, 30-26.
“I thought they fought,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of his four guard lineup. “They guarded, they rebounded, and made some plays in traffic. I thought they all did some good things. That gave us a good lift.”
Virginia controlled the early part of the second half as well and stretched its lead to six. The turning point, however, came with 12 minutes to play in the contest. Following a missed jumper by James McAdoo, Scott was whistled for his fourth foul in what appeared to be a very questionable call as the Hoos in attendance roared their disapproval. The momentum shifted to the Tar Heels following that call as UNC went on a 7-0 run.
Due to the foul trouble, it was a tough afternoon for the senior from Chesapeake. Scott was held to a season-low 6 points while shooting 3-13 from the field and 0-2 from beyond the arc. Scott also played a season-low 22 minutes due to foul trouble. He still moved into an 18th place tie on Virginia’s career scoring list with 1,437 points, tying Barry Parkhill (1,437, 1971-73).
“I don’t know how many shots I took today, but I know I should have made half of them,” Scott said. “It was tough but my teammates kept it close even without me. We had some offensive breakdowns at the end and that really hurt us.”
Added Bennett, “I think they did a good job on him defensively. He’s played so well and carried us. He was off and maybe was settling a little on the outside. I thought in the second half, when we started, he looked great because he got drives and he got going a little bit and was moving with more purpose. I thought he got going then he got his third foul and his fourth foul pretty quick so it was a very interrupted game for him.”
Virginia retook the lead with just less than six minutes to play following a putback by Harris. The advantage lasted only 12 seconds as John Henson answered on the other end with a dunk to give the Tar Heels the lead for good. The Cavaliers only managed one field goal in the final five minutes, shooting a combined 1-8 from the field.
As was the case in the first meeting, the Cavaliers again struggled to defend North Carolina’s frontline. Tyler Zeller scored 20 points, including going 6-6 from the foul line. Henson added 15 points of his own. The Heels dominated Virginia on the boards, outrebounding the Hoos 48-29. In UNC’s 70-52 victory in Chapel Hill, it won the board battle 52-32.
“They’re really tough,” Mitchell said. “They made a lot of plays and they’re really good. You have to be physical and smart and play them straight up.”
With Scott battling foul trouble, the play of Harris proved to be a bright spot for the Cavaliers. The junior forward scored 12 points, shooting 50 percent from the field (5-10). Harris also knocked down his first 3-pointer since injuring his non-shooting hand in the loss to North Carolina back on Feb. 11; he hit 2 of 5 long-range attempts in the game. Saturday’s contest marked the fourth straight game with his hand taped up. The bandage was trimmed slightly, allowing Harris to use his thumb more. He said that the bandage will be cut down each game, but he will have to wear it for the rest of the season. Harris also recorded a career-high three blocks against the Tar Heels.
Joe Harris had a strong outing with 12 points, 5 rebounds,
“I try not to really think about having a broken hand or about having a cast,” Harris said. “I try to go out there and play like I did early in the season.”
The game marked another terrific performance on both sides of the ball by Evans as well. He has been matched up with some of the premiere point guards in the country this season from Michigan’s Trey Burke to Duke’s Austin Rivers already, but the 5’11” junior was given perhaps his toughest assignment of the year Saturday. He had to defend 6’4″ Kendall Marshall, who really keys the Tar Heel attack. Evans held Marshall scoreless from the field and forced two turnovers.
Offensively, Evans scored in double figures for the fifth time in the last six games, finishing with a team-high 13 points. Evans has demonstrated the ability to penetrate the lane and score in the paint with regularity in those recent contests. Often times, the Carolina big men collapsed on Virginia screens, allowing Evans to create an open lane to the basket.
“That’s something that just comes natural,” Evans said. “I read the big man. If he leaves, I just take it to the rack or I kick it out to one of the shooters.”
The free throw differential also became a major storyline in Virginia’s loss to North Carolina. The Tar Heels went 18-23 from the foul line, while the Cavaliers only shot 3-6 from the charity stripe
Virginia will take the floor at the John Paul Jones Arena for the final time in 2011-12 against Florida State on Thursday night. The Seminoles handed Virginia a heartbreaking 58-55 defeat in Tallahassee back on Feb. 4. Virginia has not beaten FSU since 2007.