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UNC vs. Virginia Preview

No. 8 North Carolina can secure back-to-back outright ACC regular season titles with a win at Virginia, where the Tar Heels haven't won since February 2012. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. on Monday (ESPN).

North Carolina (25-5, 13-3 ACC) vs. Virginia (19-9, 9-7 ACC)
Charlottesville, Va. – John Paul Jones Arena
Monday, 7 p.m.
ESPN (Sean McDonough, Doris Burke)


“We talked about just keep playing defense to keep you in there and sooner or later we’ll knock down some shots… that’s what we’ve been talking about in all of these games. It got away from us against Carolina, but in the other games we’ve been attached because, for the most part, our defense kept us in there.” – UVa coach Tony Bennett on his team snapping its four-game losing streak against N.C. State on Saturday

“It’s not a mystery that we don’t score a ton inside, so when we’re missing some perimeter shots, that puts a lot of pressure on us defensively. Their offensive talent really got going. I think our poor offense really hurt our defense and it sort of turned into one of those deals.” – Bennett on UVa’s 24-point loss to UNC on Feb. 18

“I have the utmost respect for (Tony Bennett) and his club, and I have never seen his team miss that many shots. We were playing pretty well defensively sometimes, and sometimes they got wide-open shots and they just didn’t go in. That happens in the game of basketball. Nobody’s done a better job the last three years in the country than Tony Bennett has, and I really like him as a person, too.” – UNC coach Roy Williams on his team’s win over UVa earlier this month


Heels on Top: With its 85-67 win at Pittsburgh on Saturday, paired with No. 10 Duke’s loss at Miami, UNC clinched at least a share of the ACC regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. Justin Jackson continued his candidacy for ACC Player of the Year with another impressive shooting performance, sinking five threes and leading all scorers with 23 points. Jackson’s outing was his 16th game this season with 20 or more points. The nation’s top rebounding team flexed its muscles on the boards, outrebounding the Panthers, 48-28, and grabbing a season-high 24 offensive rebounds. UNC can clinch its second-straight outright ACC regular season title with one win in its final two games.

Cavalier Spotlight: Virginia was finally able to stop the bleeding on Saturday with a 70-55 win over fledgling N.C. State. The win snapped the Cavs’ four-game losing streak, which was the longest slide since 2010 – Tony Bennett’s first season in Charlottesville. The run of losses took the Cavaliers from a spot near the top of the ACC and dropped them into the bottom half of the standings. Virginia was already the lowest scoring team in the ACC (65.7 ppg), but were held to 55.5 points per game during the losing streak. Bennett’s squad shot a woeful 34.6 percent from the field during the stretch, which was well below its season average of 47.6 percent. The sun finally came up in Raleigh, though, as UVa shot nearly 50 percent from the field and finally found its stroke from 3-point land, converting 11 attempts from downtown.

Defensive Prowess: The Cavaliers lead the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, (87.6), according to Virginia is holding its ACC opponents to 43.6 percent shooting, good for fourth in the league.

Guy Recharges Hoos: Virginia’s shooting woes have been well documented over the past three weeks, and the question remained as to what would get them back on track. The answer just so happened to be the play of freshman guard Kyle Guy on Saturday. Guy, if anything, was a single representation of the Cavs’ struggles as a whole. The 6-foot-3 guard, who has been a consistent role player off the bench, had only scored three points total in his previous three games. He found his rhythm against N.C. State and sparked the rest of his team by torching the Wolfpack for 19 points, including 14 in the first half off four treys. His performance injected some confidence back into the Cavs, as they fed off his energy and started looking like the team that’s become a perennial ACC contender.

Matchup to Watch: With UNC posting the best rebounding margin in the nation, it was up to UVa big man Jack Salt to make the difference on the boards in the first matchup on Feb. 18. Unfortunately for the 6-foot-11 center, three first half fouls effectively took him out of the game, as he only played 15 total minutes in the loss. In his absence, the Tar Heels put on a show on the glass, outrebounding the Cavs by 18. For UVa to have any hope of creating healthy competition in the post, Salt has to stay on the court in the rematch as he represents Bennett’s primary size option down low. With Virginia’s tempered offensive pace, it can’t afford to give up extra possessions, especially with UNC’s proficiency on the offensive glass.

Stat of Note: The Tar Heels have not won in Charlottesville since 2012.

Last Meeting: UNC defeated Virginia, 65-41, on Feb. 18. Justin Jackson led all scorers with 20 points, including four three pointers. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Cavaliers, 44-26, with Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks combining for 15 boards. UNC’s defensive performance may have been the most impressive, though, as it held the Cavs to 27.8 percent shooting.

Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series, 131-53.

Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.8 ppg, 3.9 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 11.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 7.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg

Top Reserves:
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) –7.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.6 ppg, 2.4 apg
32 Luke Maye (6-8, 235, So.) – 5.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg

Projected Virginia Starters:
32 London Perrantes (6-2, 197, Sr.) – 12.4 ppg, 3.9 apg
00 Devon Hall (6-5, 207, Jr.) – 8.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg
21 Isaiah Wilkins (6-7, 225, Jr.) - 7.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg
33 Jack Salt (6-11, 247, So.) – 3.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg
04 Marial Shayok (6-5, 196, Jr.) – 9.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Top Reserves:
11 Ty Jerome (6-5, 192, Fr.) – 3.8 ppg, 1.2 apg
25 Mamadi Diakite (6-9, 214, Fr.) - 3.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg
05 Kyle Guy (6-3, 165, Fr.) – 7.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg

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