North Carolina 62, Virginia 56: Three up, three down
For all of North Carolina's talent, it sure seemed as if the visitors had to steal one from Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday. The Cavaliers played pretty good defense for the final 29 minutes of the game, and the Tar Heels size advantage did not prove as overwhelming as perhaps some folks (myself included) anticipated it would entering the contest.
In the end, Virginia was undone because it suffered another bout of offensive futility in the second half. After shooting 53.6 percent from the field in the first half, the Cavaliers shot 26.1 percent from the field after the break.
Virginia seemed to wear down considerably in the second half, perhaps because only seven players logged more than 10 minutes. On the other hand, all 10 North Carolina players that entered the contest logged at least 13 minutes.
Still, the Cavaliers held their own. They might have lost, 62-56, but they came away from the game with a favorable impression of their effort.
"Teams like North Carolina, they’re not bad," said junior center Assane Sene, who grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. "They play basketball sort of like everybody. But by the way that we play, they’re not better than us. We just really probably maybe did some breakdowns, which was a little bit frustrating. We’re just going to learn from it and come back and get ready to not repeat it next time."
1) First-half shooting. For much of the first half, it seemed as though the Cavaliers were playing the Howard game all over again. Virginia shot 53.6 percent from the field before the intermission Saturday. Freshman guard K.T. Harrell shot 5 for 8 from the field in the first half. Freshman guard Joe Harris shot 3 for 4, senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan shot 3 for 6 and sophomore guard Jontel Evans shot 2 for 4. Virginia led by seven at the break.
2) Defense. Well, at least the defense Virginia played after the first 11 minutes or so. With just less than nine minutes remaining in the first half, North Carolina had tallied 26 points. The Tar Heels scored 36 points the rest of the game, and 17 of those points came from the free throw line. North Carolina made 11 of its first 17 shot attempts. But from that point forward, the Tar Heels shot 24.3 percent (9 for 37) from the field.
3) Assane Sene. The junior center pulled down 11 rebounds, which helped atone for the fact he scored only three points. With senior forward Mike Scott (ankle) out for at least the near future, the Cavaliers need Sene to be the presence on the boards that he was today. Sure, Sene is foul prone. He picked up four fouls this afternoon. But Coach Tony Bennett has got to find a way to keep Sene on the floor for 20-24 minutes per game. At least until Sherrill returns to full strength and/or Akil Mitchell develops into a more consistent rebounder.
1) Foul trouble. If you want to blame part of this on the officiating of Saturday's game, that's certainly your perogative. The fact is three of Virginia's four available post players competed a majority of the second half in serious foul trouble. Mitchell fouled out with 2:27 to play. Sene tallied four fouls. Sherrill and Joe Harris each registered three. Consequently, North Carolina spent a lot of time at the charity stripe in the second half. The Tar Heels made 17 of 22 free throws after the intermission, which helped them overcome the fact they were struggling so mightily to make a shot from the field.
2) Shot hesitation. With 20.2 seconds remainining in the game, Harris caught the ball beyond the three-point line with the Cavaliers trailing by two points. The play had been designed to get him an open look. He had it. He knew, in retrospect, he had it. And instead of firing away, he pump-faked and dribbled toward the top of the key. Harris is one of Virginia's top long-range threats. He needs to take that shot, something he acknowledged afterward.
"Obviously now, looking back on that, I regret not taking the shot," Harris said. "I had it. Coach drew it up for me, had the confidence in me to take it. I should have taken the shot when I had it there. I should have taken the shot and put us in position to win. I just kind of, I don’t know, I just really regret not taking the shot when I had it."
Said Bennett: "Joe just passed it up, and he’ll learn from that. I don’t think that will happen again."
3) Second chance points. North Carolina outscored Virginia in second half points, 9-0, after the intermission and 15-4 on the day. The Cavaliers are going to have to attempt to overcome their dearth of experienced post players in the coming weeks if Scott cannot return. There's a lot of pressure right now on Mitchell to develop quickly. His athleticism could come in handy, if honed properly.
| January 8, 2011; 4:48 PM ET
Categories: Men's Basketball
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