By Adam Lucas
1. Frustrating night in Charlottesville, as Carolina had some intangibles going against it but also failed to make some key plays in a 65-58 loss to Virginia. As usual, the Cavaliers’ defense is stout–Carolina scored 58 points in this game after scoring 59 in a half earlier this season.
2. Pete Nance missed his second straight full game after missing most of the previous contest before that with a back issue. Nance did more on Tuesday night than he did on Saturday at the Smith Center, as he dressed, stretched, and went through part of the warmups. Playing Tuesday means the Tar Heels have a little longer rest period before the next game, as they travel to Louisville on Saturday.
3. Nance’s absence, already important, became even more crucial when Armando Bacot went down with an ankle injury just 1:18 into the game. That left Carolina once again shuffling personnel for the rest of the game. They got a huge boost from Jalen Washington, who had scored 13 points in the entire season, and proceeded to score 12 in 11 minutes of the first half playing time and finished with 13 for the game. Washington may have tired and tried to do too much during a couple of second half possessions, but overall it was a standout performance and indicative of a player who will be more important for Carolina going forward. With Bacot out, Carolina was actively running plays for the freshman in a four-point game with ten minutes left. The Tar Heels now have two road ACC losses in which the potential ACC Player of the Year did not play–but were also close enough to win either game without him.
4. How important was Washington? Virginia’s big push early in the second half came with him off the floor, as Carolina went without a true post presence for three minutes. The Cavs took advantage of that lineup for a 9-0 run that pushed them into the lead by four points. That sequence woke up what had been a sleepy John Paul Jones Arena crowd and eventually turned into a 17-2 spurt that gave the home team a seven-point lead.
5. With Carolina facing some first half adversity–injuries plus foul trouble that saddled four different Tar Heels with two fouls, and eventually RJ Davis with three after a dubious “charging” call by Lee Cassell along the sideline with under 30 seconds to play–Hubert Davis was extremely positive with his team as they clawed back from an early deficit and eventually took a lead as big as nine points. While the officials reviewed a play with 8:44 left in the first half, he gathered his team around him solely to tell them, “I’m so proud of you!” At that point, the Heels were relying heavily on younger players in a hostile environment, and the message seemed to resonate.
6. Virginia had good success getting into the paint early, often via the dribble, scoring eight quick points in the paint in the first eight minutes. But even without Bacot, Carolina’s defense around the rim tightened after that, and the Hoos managed just four points in the paint the rest of the half. During a period when they weren’t shooting well–just 37.5 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from three–limiting their easy chances was important. The Tar Heel defense was not as successful in the second half, and Virginia eventually outscored Carolina 32-20 in the paint. That helped the Hoos shoot 53.6 percent in the second half.
7. Roller coaster of a game for Caleb Love. He struggled through the first 35 minutes, but then caught fire late and hit a couple of virtually impossible three-pointers. But then he was beaten for a dunk by Reece Beekman in a three point game with under a minute to go, and turned the ball over on an inbounds pass that led to another easy hoop. Love finished 4-for-13 and scored 13 points and had five assists…but also had four turnovers. In a low possession game, Carolina’s 13 miscues as a team were too many.
8. The free throw line has been an important source of offense for Carolina this year. But surprisingly, it was Virginia that took more advantage at the charity stripe on Tuesday. While Carolina went just 8-for-12 from the line (missing Bacot was important in that category), the Cavaliers made 11 of 19 attempts.
9. Important sequence with under five minutes to play. Carolina had closed within four points and had two possessions to cut the deficit further. But Love missed a driving attempt, and then Leaky Black missed a corner three-pointer.
10. RJ Davis continued his steady offensive production. He scored a team-high 16 points. But like Love, he was also afflicted by the turnover bug, committing four of them. Carolina’s starting backcourt finished with a combined six assists and eight turnovers. The UNC turnovers were largely responsible for Virginia holding a 10-2 edge in fast break points, and in a seven-point loss, the eight-point Virginia advantage in that category looms large. The absence of Bacot was not responsible for Carolina’s ballhandling issues.
11. You’re familiar with the Tar Heels receiving biscuits for hitting 100 points at the Smith Center, of course. Things are a little different in Charlottesville. The in-arena promotion hits if the Cavaliers score…67 points.
12. Virginia has now won the last eight against Carolina in Charlottesville. The Tar Heels’ last victory here was in 2012.