The #23 Virginia Cavaliers picked up a HUGE win - and exorcised some demons - as they took down #5 North Carolina, 53-43. Virginia shot 54.5% from three in the second half, led by Kyle Guy (17 points) and London Perrantes (13 points, nine in the second half). Virginia was phenomenal on the boards, limiting the Heels to 10 overall offensive rebounds and just 11 second chance points. Defensively, Virginia was outstanding, holding UNC to just 20 second half points and limiting the offensively potent Justin Jackson to seven points, which matches his season low. The Heels shot 35.4% from the field and 25% from three in the game, led by Joel Berry with 12 points.
The 43 points scored by North Carolina were the fewest scored by a Tar Heel team under head coach Roy Williams (14 years), and the fewest points by any Carolina team since 1979 when the Heels lost 47-40 to Duke.
“The most aggressive team won tonight, and the best team tonight won.” Williams told the press following the game. “Their defense was a lot stronger and more aggressive than our offense.”
Williams lamented Carolina’s 12 first half turnovers in such a low possession game (57 possessions for UNC), pointing out Virginia’s trap as influencing their offensive game.
“Tonight, I don’t think it’s as much what we did wrong, but what their defense does.” Williams said. “I don’t like the turnovers and I don’t like shooting 28% in the second half, but when you turn the ball over, it’s usually because of the defense does something. When you shoot 28% it’s usually because the defense does something.
UNC’s big men - Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Luke Maye - combined for eight of the team’s 14 total turnovers.
Although the defense was spectacular, holding UNC to half their season average of 86 points per game, the offense - especially from three point range - had just enough to push the Hoos over the edge.
“We need that,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said after the game of their three point shooting. “We are going to have to make outside shots, that’s just who we are...the ability to really move hard without the ball, screen well, and then have the right guys get set up.”
Tony Bennett shook up the starting lineup, going with first years Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy complementing mainstays Jack Salt, London Perrantes, and Devon Hall. The start was number 129 for Perrantes, a new Virginia school record. North Carolina utilized their height advantage early, getting their first bucket on an alley-oop play. A banked in three by Joel Berry gave the Tar Heels a 7-0 lead before Jerome answered with a three and the Hoos went on a 12-0 run thanks to a couple huge threes by Guy. Virginia made it 15-9, but went cold from the field, missing their next seven shots spanning four and a half minutes. Guy saved the day with his third three of the first half to inject a little life back into the offense, but UNC responded with a dunk.
Defensively, Virginia was sound in the first half, holding the Tar Heels to their second lowest offensive output of the season (worst was 22 points against Miami). Justin Jackson led the Heels with five first half points, a vast improvement from his 18 first half points in Chapel Hill. Perrantes drew Jackson primarily, and had a fantastic defensive performance on the leading ACC Player of the Year candidate. The Heels only took five three-pointers, but made three of them. Virginia hassled North Carolina for the first 20 minutes, forcing the Tar Heels into 12 turnovers and grabbing five steals. The stat of the first half had to be the Hoos limiting UNC’s much taller front line to just three offensive rebounds and three second chance points.
Guy carried the Hoos in the first half, connecting on three of his four three-point attempts in the first 20 minutes, including one over Jackson as the shot clock buzzer sounded.
“I had no idea...the crowd really helped me out with that one.” Guy said with a smile. “I shot crazy stuff like that in high school, and I’ve shot a couple like that in practice, but never had big enough balls to do that on this stage until now.”
(It’s the first bucket in this clip)
In addition to his 17 points, Guy added six rebound, second only to Wilkins’s nine.
After leading 27-23 at the half, Virginia got off to a hot start in the second half, extending the lead to 33-23 before the Heels went on a mini 6-0 run to close it back within four. Guy’s hot shooting continued into the second 20 minutes as he made contested and open looks alike. The biggest lift, however, was Perrantes as he got hot, hitting three three-pointers in the second half. His first of the game came when Virginia was clinging to a 40-39 lead. The Hoos then went on an 8-0 run, extending their lead to 48-39 and only allowed North Carolina one field goal in the final nine and a half minutes of the game.
Down the stretch, Virginia locked in defensively and limited good looks for UNC. For the game, the Hoos took care of the ball with only four turnovers, and assisted 15 of 19 made baskets. Hall led the way with five assists (and one TO), and Guy and Perrantes each had four assists, no turnovers.
“This is the time of the year where softness doesn’t work. Everything has to be met with two hands for the most part...just being as sharp as we can.” Bennett said of their ball security.
Hall missed a couple dunks during the game, but the moment brought some levity to the post game proceedings as Perrantes - his roommate and four-year teammate - opened the press conference with a statement addressing the misses:
London: Dev’s missed dunk. So what had happened was...
Devon: I had no business being up there.
London: Dev was up late last night and I told him, “you’re gonna miss two dunks in the game if you don’t go to sleep” and he didn’t listen to me.
Overall, the game couldn’t have come at a better time for the Hoos as they recovered from their four-game losing streak and built off of their road win at NC State.
“I felt like it hasn’t happened since I’ve been here, getting smacked like that by 30 points,” Wilkins said of the feelings remaining after the beat down in Chapel Hill. “We talked about that and ‘that’s not us’ and we’ve got to get back to playing our way. For them to come in here, we knew we were going to bring the fight to them just like they brought it to us when they were at home.”
Virginia closes the regular season at home on Saturday with a chance to continue their revenge tour against Pitt. The game will be Perrantes’s final game in John Paul Jones arena, something the fourth year isn’t quite ready for.
“I don’t know if I’m looking forward to this game yet,” Perrantes said of his looming final game. “It went by way too fast. JPJ is home now.”