UNC O > UVA D: How did the Heels eviscerate the Pack-Line?

storylogo2North Carolina put out a nice blueprint for teams in the NCAA Tournament bracket with third-ranked UVA to follow: you can beat Virginia in a nailbiter if you can do something that nobody had done since November 2010.

UNC shot 54.8 percent in its 71-67 win over the ‘Hoos in the ACC Tournament semifinals on Friday. It was the highest that a UVA opponent had shot for a game dating back 163 games.

If you’re a diehard, you might remember that game out in Maui against Washington, which shot 58 percent in a blowout win.

“What we try to hang our hat on really was porous,” said Cavs coach Tony Bennett, who was so lost for answers that he spent a long stretch during one media timeout in the first half conferring with his staff away from the team huddle.

Bennett also uncharacteristically walked away from a request for a halftime TV interview, then according to players stepped further out of character at halftime, foregoing his usual calm, businesslike approach in favor of his version of fire and brimstone.

It took a while for the fire to get lit, and it never got going on the defensive end. For once, UVA had to shoot its way back into the game. Down 13 with 8:27 to go, junior guard Malcolm Brogdon singlehandedly got his team back into it, making seven straight shots, including three from three-point range, as the Cavs scored 24 points in an 11-possession stretch over seven and a half minutes.

Virginia scored on 10 of those 11 possessions. North Carolina scored on seven of its 11 possessions in that same stretch.

Anything resembling the vaunted Pack-Line in the final eight minutes, and Virginia steals one.

“I told the guys right after the game, I said, you know they showed great heart and fight to claw their way back into it, to have a chance to maybe tie it or extend the game,” Bennett said.

Now with two losses in their last three games after a 28-1 start, it’s kind of back to the drawing board for the Cavs, who have to figure out how to get production from guard Justin Anderson, who was scoreless in both of his outings at the ACC Tournament after returning from a five-week stint on the sidelines due to a broken finger and an emergency appendectomy.

And surprisingly, now UVA has to figure out again how it plays defense after the program’s worst outing on that end of the floor since the current players were in middle and high school.

“Defensively for us to win a game like this, we had to win a much stronger, more sound, solid effort, and we just didn’t. So that kind of stings, but we’ll grow from it. This is one and done, and the next one is one and done, so you’ve got to try to get it right,” Bennett said.

– Column by Chris Graham


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