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Second-half surge carries Virginia over North Carolina 75-64

Nothing cures the bitter taste of a loss like another top-20 road win

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Just 48 hours after recording their first loss of the season, the Virginia Cavaliers responded in a big way, going on the road to pick up a statement 75-64 win over UNC. Behind an outstanding second half effort and led by Malcolm Brogdon's 17 points, the Hoos improved to 20-1 (8-1 ACC) and put themselves back in control of the conference. North Carolina's second consecutive loss dropped them to 17-6 (7-3 ACC)

GAME STATS: Virginia North Carolina
Points Per Possession 1.15 1.0
Effective FG% 56.3% 48.2%
Offensive Rebound % 21.4% 43.5%
Turnover % 12.3% 20.2%
FTA/FGA 32.1 23.2

Virginia played an excellent game...but not for all 40 minutes. Sloppy stretches on both sides of the ball in the first half had Tony Bennett as angry as he's been as UVA's head coach.  The Hoos launched some poor deep twos, and even faltered defensively, failing to rotate properly on multiple post-doubles.  (Tony Bennett reportedly told the team to "sit your ass down!" on the bench after one stoppage. That's not a word he usually uses.) The team made just enough shots to stay in the game, but trailed by as many as 6 before clawing back.  UNC shot 52% from the field, and grabbed 46% of their own misses in the first half, good for a 1.15 offensive efficiency.

With UVA up by one, referee Jamie Luckie called this play a charge on London Perrantes, leading to a UNC bucket on the other end to give the Heels a 33-32 lead at halftime.  It was a lowlight of a poorly officiated game, and set Tony Bennett on fire coming into the locker room.

It looked like the team got the message in the second half, as the Hoos brought a level of intensity that the Tar Heels were just incapable of matching.  Defensively, UVA locked down, forcing misses and turnovers, while they played much smarter on the offensive end.  The half had all the makings of a "Cavalanche" early; the Hoos threatened to pull away multiple times before putting together a 9-0 run, grabbing a 57-44 lead on a Brogdon three and silencing an already tranquil UNC crowd.

During UVA's run, guard play was the primary difference.  Brogdon had his second consecutive excellent outing, shooting 5-13 from the field but adding 6 free-throws to finish with 17 points. But it was London Perrantes who was the X-factor, as he played one of his most assertive games in a UVA uniform. He scored 15 points on 6-10 shooting, while dishing out 6 assists.  And Justin Anderson rebounded with a big game of his own, putting up 16 on 6-10 shooting (3-5 from behind the arc, all in the first half), while adding 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and this ferocious dunk to put the game away:

Tony Bennett went with a short bench, as just 6 players played more than 10 minutes, and those were the only six to score.  Welcome back, Anthony Gill! Gill looked far more comfortable with the ball, scoring 13 with Gill-like efficiency (6-8 shooting, 3 free-throw attempts), and pulling in a team-high 7 boards. Mike Tobey and Darion Atkins added 8 and 6 points, respectively.

Tony Bennett praised his team's return to its "blue collar" roots. "Our guys played for each other at a high level," he remarked after the game. "We got back to the mentality that we needed to. Our way is a blue collar way. I thought our guys responded well."  That's a big change in tone from his attitude at halftime. What a difference 20 minutes of excellent basketball makes!

UVA extended a lead of as many as 18 points before UNC closed the gap in garbage time. After a poor first half (and some desperation makes), the Wahoo defense held the Heels to 1.00 PPP. UNC got their offensive rebounds, pulling in 43.5% of their misses, but that's what they do.  Virginia made 54% of their 2s to UNC's 44%, while forcing 13 turnovers and keeping the Heels off the line, and that was plenty enough to pull away.

This was a big win. UVA hasn't beaten a ranked UNC team in Chapel Hill since Ralph Sampson and co. did it 1981, and this one gives the team some breathing room in the ACC standings (and tiebreakers over UNC and Notre Dame). Virginia has four days off to recover, then faces yet another test, this time at home against Louisville. That game tips off Saturday at 7 PM, back at JPJ.