UNC steals one: Heels ride success at foul line to narrow win at UVa.
Virginia and North Carolina were playing a tight ACC game when a one-team free-throw shooting contest broke out. The Heels scored their last 10 points from the foul line to break open a close game and knock off the homestanding Cavaliers, 62-56.
UNC (11-4, 1-0 ACC) had led 22-13 10 minutes in and seemed well on its way when a lid seemed to appear on the basket on the Carolina end. The Heels made only two of their next 20 shots from the field, and Virginia took advantage, closing out the first half on a 21-7 run to lead 34-30 and extending that lead to 43-32 on a long three-pointer by Jontel Evans with 14:25 left.
The game turned into a muddle for the next 10 minutes. The Virginia lead was at 50-44 with 6:40 left on a free throw by Assane Sene when Carolina went on an 8-0 run that culminated with its last field goal at the 3:15 mark on a drive to the basket by John Henson.
A frustrating (to UVa. fans) run to the charity stripe by the guys in baby blue ensued from there. Virginia closed to within 57-56 with 37.8 seconds left on the second of back-to-back driving layups by Evans. Harrison Barnes made one of two free throws at the other end to make it 58-56 Carolina with 28.8 seconds left. Virginia coach Tony Bennett called a timeout and drew up a play to get freshman sharpshooter Joe Harris an open look for a three. The play seemed to get Harris the look that Bennett wanted, but Harris pump-faked and passed to Evans, who missed a contested runner in the lane that UNC rebounded with 10 seconds left. Dexter Strickland made two free throws to extend the lead to 60-56.
KT Harrell missed a jumper with four seconds left. Strickland made another pair from the line with 1.2 seconds left to close out the scoring.
“We missed a few easy ones, and we looked a little tired. We were riding those guys hard,” said Bennett, who was once again without the services of leading scorer and rebounder Mike Scott, whose 16 points and 10 rebounds a game was with Scott on the bench in streetclothes as the senior continues to deal with an ankle injury that has threatened his season.
Fellow senior co-captain Will Sherrill was able to play 26 minutes despite obvious limping due to the Nov. 29 fractured fibula he suffered in a Virginia win at Minnesota. Sherrill, who Bennett referred to as “Hopalong” in response to a reporter’s question about his effort, scored two points on 1-for-4 shooting and pulled down one rebound.
The post was an obvious weak spot in Scott’s absence once again. UVa.’s post players were a combined 3-for-10 from the field in 74 minutes of playing time. Harrell led four Virginia players in double figures with 13 points. Evans and Mustapha Farrakhan had 11 each, and Harris had 10.
UVa. (10-6, 1-1 ACC) outshot Carolina from the field (41.2 percent to 37 percent) and from three-point range (35.3 percent to 27.3 percent). UNC outrebounded the Cavs 39-32, including 11-4 on the offensive glass.
The key to the game: Carolina was 19-of-27 from the foul line for the game, while Virginia only got to the line 12 times, and made eight of those attempts.
“I’m sitting here right now feeling like I went inside and stole the cookie from the jar, and I want to get out of town as fast as I can,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.