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Virginia grinds out 56-47 win over North Carolina to start ACC play undefeated

Hoos got big performances out of Caffaro, Woldetensae in the win.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers rebounded from Wednesday’s blowout loss at Purdue with a convincing 56-47 win over the No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels. Virginia improved to 8-1 with the win, and are now 2-0 in the ACC.

Virginia got the performances they needed from the bench against Carolina with 25 bench points. Francisco Caffaro was outstanding, scoring a career-high 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting with seven rebounds and one block in 20 minutes. Tomas Woldetensae also scored a career-high with 11 points, going 3-for-4 beyond the arc.

Mamadi Diakite led the Cavaliers with 12 points, but also turned the ball over six times and fouled out in 28 minutes.

The Cavaliers had a strong shooting day beyond the arc, going 35% on 6-for-17 shooting. Overall, Virginia shot just 33% from the field. After nine first half turnovers, Virginia had just four in the second half (three of which came in the final 2:30 of the game).

Armando Bacot, who sprained his ankle, got the start for the Tar Heels and finished with 11 points, behind just first year superstar Cole Anthony’s 12 points (well below his average of 20 points per game). North Carolina shot 37% from the field, but went just 1-for-14 (7%) from three. The Tar Heels had 12 turnovers, and only two points in transition.

Garrison Brooks opened the scoring two and a half minutes into the game as he pulled up for a jumper. Virginia started the game 0-for-7, not breaking into the scoring column until 14:38 remained on the clock when Diakite connected on three free throws after absorbing a foul from Bacot. Morsell notched the first field goal for Virginia with 13:50 left on the clock, giving the Hoos a 5-2 lead.

The first 10+ minutes of the game were an unmitigated disaster for both teams as seemingly no one could make a shot and both teams turned the ball over profusely. Virginia had six of its nine first-half turnovers in that span, and missed 12 shots as they made just one field goal.

Virginia would go on to make four threes over the final 9:02 of the first half, and Kody Stattmann pushed Virginia’s lead to 24-18 with four seconds left on the clock off of a dish from Clark.

Virginia shot 32% from the field in the first half, led by Diakite’s eight points. Woldentensae connected on two threes (in two attempts) for six points as the Hoos shot 44% from beyond the arc. The turnover bug was still an issue for Virginia, giving the ball away nine times in the first half.

The Cavalier defense gave the Tar Heels a hard time, holding them to 30% shooting from the field and an 0-for-8 mark from beyond the arc. Anthony led the Heels with five points in the first half.

Leaky Black pulled the Tar Heels back within four on North Carolina’s first possession of the second half, but Woldetensae responded with his third three. Bacot’s second bucket of the game quickly cut back into Virginia’s lead, and Anthony added a three to bring Carolina within a bucket.

Diakite added two free throws that were quickly negated by another jumper from Bacot, but Diakite answered with one of his own on the other end to put Virginia up 31-27 with 16:26 remaining. The offenses seemed to come alive in the second half as Anthony cut Virginia’s lead to two before Clark finally got one to fall to return the lead to four.

Stattmann quickly put Virginia up six with a fast break layup, but Bacot once again found the easy bucket in the paint. Caffaro converted one free throw at the line, giving the Hoos a 36-31 lead with 14:39 to play. Virginia matched its biggest lead of the game at eight with a corner three from Stattmann.

Caffaro left the game briefly after landing funny after swatting a block, but came back after a brief trip to the locker room with trainer Ethan Saliba. A 4-0 run from Carolina cut Virginia’s lead in half, but Clark got two of the points back at the free throw line after taking a foul from Anthony.

The Hoos would extend their lead to 14 with four free throws and two buckets from Caffaro. Virginia continued to dominate defensively, allowing just three free throws over a 7:36 span. Anthony ended the field goal drought with a jumper that brought North Carolina within 15 with three minutes to play.

Carolina’s late scoring flurry brought the Heels within nine, but they never seriously threatened and the Cavaliers were able to run out the clock for the win.

Next up, Virginia will host Stony Brook on December 18, after the 10 day exam break.