Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia basketball team faced a stiff challenge in its ACC opener with the North Carolina Tar Heels coming to town. The Cavaliers were up to the task, however, and dropped the Heels 61-52 on Sunday night.
Virginia's season has been a bit baffling so far, with big wins over Wisconsin and Tennessee and losses to George Mason, Delaware and Old Dominion. But the real season started tonight when North Carolina came to JPJ and Virginia fans were hoping to see what their team was really all about.
Let's just say, I think they'll be happy with what they saw.
The Cavaliers (11-3, 1-0) used a 35-18 run - a combination of both great offensive plays and solid defense - to put away Carolina (10-4, 0-1) 61-52. The win was Virginia's first against Carolina in Charlottesville since 2006. The 52 points was Carolina's lowest output of the season, besting #1 Indiana's performance of allowing 59 points back in November.
Virginia's pack-line defense also led to an impressive shut down of Tar Heel assists. Carolina came into the game ranked second in the country with 19.5 assists per game. the Cavaliers allowed just 9 tonight. Fairly certain that'll even stand up to pace adjustments.
Virginia had more points (obviously), assists (14), rebounds (30 to 29), steals (6 to 4) and blocks (6 to 2) than the Tar Heels. They also had fewer turnovers (11 to 12). They had a higher FG% (44.9% to 37.3%) and 3FG% (57.1% to 29.4%). The only real negative thing from the stat sheet was the Cavalier free throw shooting. Virginia was just 9 for 18 and probably could have put away the Heels a bit earlier if they could have made some of those freebies.
As we have come to expect, Joe Harris led Virginia with 19 points. Those points came on everything from long distance threes to inside moves and provided consistent scoring throughout the game. But the star of the show - or at least the guy that everyone was talking about afterwards - was probably Evan Nolte, who had nine points on 3 of 5 shooting from behind the arc. His back-to-back three pointers during Virginia's second-half surge included one from NBA range.
Jontel Evans, in his first significant minutes since reinjuring his foot had eight points and six assists in only 21 minutes of play. Akil Mitchell and Paul Jesperson both added seven points, while Teven Jones had six, Darion Atkins and Mike Tobey had two and Justin Anderson added a free throw.
The Cavaliers hit the road to travel to Wake Forest on Wednesday at 9pm and finish their road swing at Clemson on Saturday at noon. The Wake game will be televised by RSN and the Clemson game will be shown on the ACC Network.