After a week off, North Carolina (12-6, 7-4 ACC) returns to the road to face No. 9 Virginia (14-3, 10-1 ACC). This is UNC's first road game since defeating Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 91-87. For the first time this season, Carolina scored a season-high of 91 points and shot over 50% during both halves.
It was the first game since 2010 that six different Tar Heels scored in double digits, with freshman Caleb Love leading the pack. Love finished with a career-high of 25 points and seven assists. The Missouri native also received his second ACC Freshman of the Week Honors.
The meeting against the Cavaliers will not be an easy task. Virginia is currently undefeated at home this season and has limited 13 opponents to 64 or fewer points, and leads in scoring defense. Offensively, the Bennett led team has five players among ACC leaders. Jay Huff ranks second in the ACC in field goal percentage (.627) and blocked shots, Sam Hauser ranks third in made 3-pointers (2.3), sixth in field goal percentage (.522), and 10th in rebounding (7.2), Trey Murphy III ranks 10th in made 3-pointers (2.2), Kihei Clark ranks second in assist/turnover ratio (2.2) and fourth in assists (4.6) and Reece Beekman ranks 13th in steals (1.4).
Previously with a week passed between competitions, North Carolina did not respond well; a significant fall to Clemson shrank the team's past success, but the win over Duke kept UNC within the means to make the NCAA tournament. A win over Virginia could define the season and adversities this team has met. Not weighing the most recent public video, but complications such as fitting a system, turnovers, pace, and growing freshmen have contributed to UNC's woes. If there was any point in the season a corner needs to be turned, Virginia is your statement piece.
Three things North Carolina must do to win:
- Guard the three:
- Statistically and historically, North Carolina has not done well at guarding the perimeter but going up against the best in the ACC and 8th in the nation; UNC should've dedicated an entire practice to defending the arc. Virginia's Trey Murphy and Sam Hauser have zero fear in shooting the ball, and UNC has to match that confidence.
- UNC is averaging 15 turnovers a game; a disappointment for Roy Williams. The Heels has got to do a better job at handling and protecting the ball. Despite having his best game of the season, Williams still pointed out Love's five turnovers in their win against Duke. His point guards do not commit those mistakes.
- Play Big
- UNC is the larger team. North Carolina has an ample opportunity to do what they do best and play inside out with the high advantage. But that doesn't discount their perimeter shooting. Against Duke, UNC shot their best of the season from the three at 67%. If Love or Kerwin Walton has an open shot, take it.
Saturday night's matchup will be the 190th meeting with the Heels, with Carolina leading the series, 131-59, but the details lie in the last six meetings. UVa currently has the longest win streak against UNC.
If the Heels want to control the narrative, Saturday has to be dominated unequivocally.
- Opponent: Virginia Cavaliers
- Place: Charlottesville, Va
- Time: 6 pm
- Watch: ESPN
- ESPN Radio: Sean Kelley, Bob Valvano
- UNC Radio: Tar Heel Sports Properties
- Satelite Radio: XM 381