Chapel Hill, NC – Coming off a deflating last second loss to ranked North Carolina Tar Heels seek a quick turnaround, ranked Virginia Cavaliers to Chapel Hill this afternoon for a key ACC clash at the Smith Center.
It will be interesting to see if there are any lingering effects from Wednesday's 85-84 loss to arch rival Duke. The loss halted a five-game win streak for North Carolina and ended a 31-game homecourt winning streak as well. It dropped Roy William's squad to 7-2 in conference play, now tied with Duke and Florida State atop the standings.
Tony Bennett's Cavaliers are one of the surprise teams in the ACC this year. The team is just a game out of first place at 6-3, thanks to wins in four of its last five games, including a lopsided 68-44 win over Wake Forest on Wednesday.
UNC holds a sizeable 125-49 advantage in the all-time series with Virginia, including wins in six of the last seven meetings overall. The Tar Heels are 63-6 in the series in Chapel Hill, including a 21-3 mark at the Smith Center.
The Cavaliers will need to slow down the explosive Tar Heels, something they have done effectively in most games this season. Virginia ranks second nationally in scoring defense (51.1 ppg), holding opponents to a mere .391 shooting. Mike Scott is one of the conference's top frontcourt performers, shooting an impressive .603 from the field overall, while pacing the Cavaliers in both scoring (17.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg). Guards Joe Harris (12.7 ppg) and Sammy Zeglinski (8.5 ppg) provide perimeter balance. The pair have combined for 81 of the team's 117 three-pointers to date.
The Cavs were once again at their defensive best in the 24-point win over the Demon Deacons, holding Wake to a mere .341 shooting, while forcing 17 turnovers. The team got a balanced scoring effort with five double-digit scorers. Scott led the way with 19 points. Harris added 11, while Jontel Evans, Akil Mitchell and Malcolm Brogdon chipped in 10 points each.
Duke's star freshman Austin Rivers stuck a dagger in the hearts of the Chapel Hill faithful, as his three-pointer gave the Blue Devils the win at the Smith Center on Wednesday. The loss certainly spoiled terrific performances by Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller, who combined for 48 points. Barnes finished with 25 point, while Zeller posted a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds. John Henson also recorded a double-double with 12 points and 17 rebounds, while Kendall Marshall almost made it a trifecta, registering 14 points and eight assists.
That formula has worked to UNC's advantage for the most part this season, as the Tar Heels are fueled by a dominant frontcourt. Barnes has the ability to score both inside and out, averaging a team-high 17.7 ppg. Zeller (15.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and Henson (14.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg) are a lethal duo in the paint. Marshall isn't much of a scorer (6.8 ppg) but is charged with running the nation's top scoring team (84.1 ppg), which he does to near perfection with almost 10 assists per game.