CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – No. 5 North Carolina’s quest for back-to-back outright ACC regular season titles will continue into rivalry week after scoring a Roy Williams-era low 43 points in its loss at No. 23 Virginia on Monday.
UNC’s previous season scoring low was 62 points at Miami on Jan. 28, and its previous Williams-era low was 45 points at Syracuse on Jan. 11, 2014. It's the fewest points UNC has scored since its 47-40 loss at Duke on Feb. 24, 1979.
The Tar Heels, playing their second road game in three days, lost 53-43 despite holding the Cavaliers to 32.2 percent shooting. UNC shot 35.4 percent, including a 27.6 percent effort after halftime, and committed 14 turnovers in averaging 0.75 points per possession.
“The most aggressive team won tonight," Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. "The best team tonight won. Their defense was a lot stronger and more aggressive than our offense."
Joel Berry was the lone Tar Heel to score in double figures (12), marking the first time this season multiple players have failed to score 10 or more points.
UNC can clinch its 21st outright ACC regular season title with a win over Duke on Saturday or with losses by Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida State.
In UNC’s previous seven games, its most turnovers in a game was 12 against Louisville. The Tar Heels coughed up 12 turnovers in the first half against the Cavaliers, who converted the miscues into 18 second-chance points.
The manner of turnover was nearly as surprising as the volume. Three offensive fouls, two walks, a tipped pass and an interior bounce pass off the knees had Williams fuming on the sideline. UNC committed 11 of its turnovers over its final 24 possessions of the opening half.
The Tar Heels’ post quartet was the primary culprit, accounting for nine turnovers. Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks had three turnovers apiece. UNC took better care of the ball after halftime, committing just two turnovers.
"At our place when they doubled the post it really didn’t bother us very much, and tonight you can figure it out," Williams said. "Our post players had nine of our 14 turnovers. I think their double team on the big guy affected us more here than it did at our place. When we did get an open look we didn’t make it, and we weren’t strong with it inside.”
ACC Player of the Year candidate Justin Jackson was held to an ACC scoring-low of seven points on 3-of-10 (1-of-6 3FG) shooting. Virginia point guard London Perrantes drew the defensive assignment after Jackson scored 20 points against the Cavaliers in the first meeting.
“[Perrantes] did a nice job," Williams said. "He is smaller, quicker, and got underneath him and made it difficult for Justin to take the ball to the basket. Justin took too much of a load on personally and tried to take some tough shots. I’d rather take five more seconds and get a better shot than take one that tough. He’s made a bunch of baskets for us this year and we probably wouldn’t be sitting where we are if he hadn’t taken some of those tough shots, too."
Jackson had scored 20 or more points in eight of his last 10 games, but was held to his fewest field goals since the win over Tennessee on Dec. 11 and his fewest 3-pointers since the loss at Georgia Tech on Dec. 31.
“He was just on my hip at all times,” Jackson said. “There were not many times when I was separated from him. They did a great job of staying on me and making everything as tough as possible.”
Threes Fuel Cavs’ Offense
Tony Bennett’s squad missed 18 of its 20 3-point attempts in its loss at the Smith Center on Feb. 18. The Cavaliers surpassed that total before the second media timeout in the rematch en route to shooting 41.7 percent (10-24) for the game. Freshman guard Kyle Guy led the perimeter charge, knocking down five of his seven 3-point attempts.
Hoo-ville Scoring Funk
UNC is averaging 57.7 points in the six games played at John Paul Jones Arena since Tony Bennett arrived in Charlottesville. The Tar Heels are 2-4 in those games.
UVa Takes Control with Early Spurt
UNC needed six possessions to grab a 7-0 lead, and then the Cavaliers locked down defensively, forcing four turnovers over the next 4:26 to spark a 15-2 run. Virginia converted six of its nine field goal attempts during the spurt, including a 3-of-4 effort from 3-point range.
UNC closes out its ACC regular season against No. 17 Duke at the Smith Center on Saturday (8 p.m.). The Blue Devils (22-7, 10-6 ACC) are 3-5 on the road in ACC play.