Home Scott German: UNC’s 54-44 win over Virginia was a new kind of ugly

Scott German: UNC’s 54-44 win over Virginia was a new kind of ugly

Scott German
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Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

We thought we knew what ugly basketball looked like, but did we really? North Carolina’s 54-44 win over Virginia Saturday gave ugly basketball a completely distinct perspective.

There’s plenty of ugly numbers that jump out when reviewing the final game stats, and as always numbers don’t lie.

There are stats from this game that are unimaginable.

Especially from two teams in the top half of the conference standings.

How’s this one: North Carolina scored nine points during the first 4:03 of the contest, then over the next 10 minutes scored just nine. And yet somehow were able to expand their lead over the Cavaliers.

Ok, we all know the rap on UVA.

They want to dictate the pace and force the opposition to play that way as well.

Virginia likes it ugly.

But the first half of Saturday’s game was a new level of ugly.

The Cavaliers didn’t hit double-digits on the scoreboard until 17 minutes into the contest.

Want uglier?

Virginia scored its fourth point of the game with 18:08 left in the opening half. They needed almost 12 minutes more to score four more points.

Somehow, Virginia found itself trailing only 26-16 at the break.

Given the circumstances, playing that poorly and still within 10, all things considered, it could have been worse.

Until you considered this: RJ Davis hadn’t scored, and Armando Bacot sat for more than 12 minutes, with foul trouble.

Uh, oh.

The gamble on Cormac Ryan

To make matters worse, Notre Dame transfer Cormac Ryan had 15 points in the first half by himself.

Credit UVA for taking Davis out of his comfort zone, but they lost the gamble of making someone else beat them.

Gambling on making Ryan beat them was risky, as he proved more than capable.

Ryan entered the game red-hot; he didn’t just sneak up on Virginia.

Saturday, Ryan scored a team-high 18 points, after scoring 16 last Saturday against Virginia Tech, and 18 before that during a loss at Syracuse. In Carolina’s last four games, Ryan is 16-of-32 from behind the arc.

UNC got down and dirty with Virginia

Carolina, in winning in Charlottesville for the first time since 2012, didn’t seem to mind rolling around in the mud with Virginia.

In fact, it was the Tar Heels’ ability, and more importantly, their desire, to match Virginia’s defensive intensity that allowed UNC to grit out the win.

After a surprisingly quick start, after the first timeout, both teams went cold. UVA, as usual, bullied UNC into taking bad shots, nothing new there.

Except, Carolina gave it right back to Virginia on the other end of the court.

That’s a new wrinkle for the Tar Heels, especially in John Paul Jones Arena.

“We really just tried to match that energy on defense,” Bacot said, “and get as many stops as we could, and try to stretch the lead.”

Virginia’s shooting woes continue 

In losing Saturday, Virginia became only the second ACC team in the shot-clock era to score fewer than 50 points in three consecutive league games.

The Cavaliers’ first-half performance against UNC wasn’t even borderline ugly, it was embarrassing.

Despite Bacot riding the bench with two fouls, Virginia still was unable to get to the basket, and shooting from the perimeter was disastrous.

At one point in the contest UVA was 3-of-25 from the floor.

Virginia finished the game shooting 27.6 percent from the floor, including 2-of-14 from beyond the arc.

Are the Cavaliers shooting themselves out of an NCAA Tournament bid?

UVA starting five needs tweaking, now 

Plenty of blame to go around for the Cavaliers offensive ineptitude.

But the most glaring is the offensively challenged starting five.

They simply are too easy to defend, with two non-scorers in Ryan Dunn and Andrew Rohde.

Dunn, the soon-to-be NBA first round draft choice, who has yet to develop anything close to resembling a jumpshot, and Rohde, who plays, uh, timid, just makes it too simple for opposing coaches.

In the last two games, Virginia has scored 32 first-half points, total, against Virginia Tech and UNC.

Time to panic? 

In a word, yes.

Saturday wasn’t simply a one-off; it’s becoming a trend.

Since an 80-76 win over Florida State two weeks ago, the team’s eighth straight W, the Cavaliers are 1-3.

The lone win, last Saturday’s ugly (there’s that word again) 49-47 win over Wake Forest.

The loss at Virginia Tech was alarming on multiple fronts. First, scoring 41 points was bad, but defensively UVA was even worse.

Coming back to JPJ Arena, where UVA has owned the Tar Heels, gave reason for optimism.

It was short-lived.

Carolina, the league’s top team, matched Virginia all afternoon, on both ends of the floor, proving that even on an off-night offensively, beating Virginia can be done.

After the game, Virginia’s Tony Bennett said opponents are “figuring things out that are making it tough for us.”

Time for Bennett and staff to do some figuring of their own.

Scott German

Scott German

Scott German covers UVA Athletics for AFP, and is the co-host of “Street Knowledge” podcasts focusing on UVA Athletics with AFP editor Chris Graham. Scott has been around the ‘Hoos his whole life. As a reporter, he was on site for UVA basketball’s Final Fours, in 1981 and 1984, and has covered UVA football in bowl games dating back to its first, the 1984 Peach Bowl.