CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 10 North Carolina quieted concerns about its recent defensive play by holding No. 14 Virginia to a season-low 27.8 percent shooting in Saturday’s 65-41 victory.
The Cavaliers arrived at the Smith Center shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 39.6 percent from 3-point range in ACC play, both marks good for second place. Tony Bennett’s squad also ranked 21st nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (116.9), according to kenpom.com.
UNC’s length and athleticism were problematic for Virginia throughout the night, however, as the Tar Heels built a 16-point first-half lead and never looked back. The Cavaliers missed 17 of their 18 field goal attempts during one second-half stretch and shot 23.4 percent over the final 35 minutes of play.
Roy Williams's opinion of his team's defense was not as positive as the statistics might suggest, telling reporters during his postgame press conference that too many times the Cavaliers had open looks that simply didn't fall.
"This was a game where some shots went in the basket for us, and they didn’t go in the basket for them,” the 14th-year UNC head coach said.
Saturday marked the first time all season Virginia had been held below 36 percent shooting. UNC held the Cavaliers to 0.68 points per possession.
Virginia's 41 points are the second-fewest scored by an opponent in the Smith Center (460 games). Clemson scored 39 points on Feb. 16, 1995.
Jackson’s First-Half Explosion
Justin Jackson matched his season scoring average before halftime, scoring 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He exploited Virginia’s pack-line defense by shooting over it, knocking down four of his six 3-point field goal attempts.
“A big part of it was my teammates were finding me,” Jackson said. “And they were setting some great screens. Luke [Maye] was really looking to screen for me. Kennedy [Meeks] was screening, Isaiah [Hicks] was really screening, so most of the credit goes to them. For me, it’s just stepping into the shots and knocking them down like I know I can. I just got into a little rhythm. That’s all it was.”
The junior wing finished with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting (4-of-8 3FG). It's the 14th time in 28 games this season Jackson has scored 20 or more points and the eight time in 12 games. He's made four 3-pointers in a game nine times this season after making that many in a game just once in his first two seasons.
Virginia opened the game in typical Virginia mode, scoring efficiently while forcing UNC into some tough shots and building an 8-5 lead less than five minutes in. Then the Tar Heels locked down defensively, and with Jackson sparking the offense, that deficit was erased with a 20-4 run over the next eight minutes.
UNC earned defensive stops on 13 of Virginia’s 15 possessions. The Cavaliers missed nine of their 11 field goal attempts and committed four turnovers during the stretch, while the Tar Heels converted seven of their 11 field goals attempts.
UNC led 25-12 with 5:17 to play before halftime.
UNC leads the country in offensive rebound percentage, while Virginia is top-five nationally in opponents’ offensive rebound percentage. The Cavaliers kept the Tar Heels off the offensive glass early, but the home team eventually broke through, pulling down 10 offensive rebounds and scoring seven second-chance points.
UNC outrebounded Virginia, 44-26.
Pace of Play
UNC improved to 7-2 in games with 70 or fewer possessions and 3-0 in games with 65 or fewer possessions. The Tar Heels averaged 1.03 points per possession (63).
UNC welcomes No. 8 Louisville to the Smith Center for yet another important ACC matchup on Wednesday (9pm/ESPN). The Cardinals are 22-5 (10-4 ACC) and have won six of their last seven games.