Charlottesville, VA – Closing in on the end of the regular ranked North ranked Virginia Cavaliers in a key conference showdown in Charlottesville.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels enter this contest tied atop the league standings with Duke at 11-2. North Carolina have won four straight games overall and five straight on the road, including Tuesday's 86-74 win at NC State. Williams will reach 250 wins at the helm of UNC with his next victory.
Tony Bennett's Cavaliers are one of the real surprise teams on the national level this season and it has carried over to ACC play. Virginia is 8-5 in league play and has won its last two games, including a narrow 61-59 victory at rival Virginia Tech on Tuesday. The Cavs have amassed 21 regular-season wins, the most for the school since 1994-95.
The Tar Heels have won eight of the last nine meetings to increase their advantage in the all-time series to 126-49. UNC is seeking the regular-season sweep after blowing out the Cavaliers in Chapel Hill on February 11th, 70-52.
It is a lethal trio up front that is UNC's greatest strength. North Carolina ranks second in the country in scoring (82.9 ppg), while leading the nation in rebounding (45.8 rpg) and rebounding margin (+11.2). Harrison Barnes can score from pretty much anywhere on the floor, leading the team and ranking second in the ACC in scoring at 18.0 ppg. Tyler Zeller (15.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and John Henson (14.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg) make up an unstoppable duo in the low post. Point guard Kendall Marshall is as good a distributor as there is in the country, ranking second nationally with 9.8 apg. With 505 career assists, Marshall is just the fourth sophomore in ACC history to achieve that mark, joining Duke's Bobby Hurley, UNC's Ed Cota and NC State's Chris Corchiani.
Marshall showed a rarely seen scoring explosion in the win over NC State this week. The sophomore finished with a career-high 22 points, while doling out 13 assists in 38 minutes of work without a single turnover. Barnes poured in 20 point in the win. Henson and Zeller both added 14 points, while Henson recorded yet another double-double with 13 boards. Reggie Bullock rounded out the top scorers for UNC with 11 points.
The Cavaliers lack the offensive firepower to win a shootout with the Tar Heels, but then again, they aren't built for that. The team is averaging a modest 63.1 ppg this year, but enjoys an impressive +11.0 scoring margin thanks to some of the best defensive play in the country. Virginia ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (52.1 ppg), while holding foes under 40 percent shooting (.389). The Cavs lack scoring depth, but do boast of one of the ACC's top frontcourt players in Mike Scott. The veteran forward is converting almost 60 percent of his shots (.588), while leading Virginia in both scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg). Guard Joe Harris is the only other double-digit threat at this time with 11.4 ppg. Fellow guards Sammy Zeglinski (8.3 ppg) and Jontel Evans (7.0 ppg) provide limited offensive support.
Scott was at it again in the win over Virginia Tech this week, as he finished just shy of a double-double with game-highs of 20 points and nine rebounds. Evans and Zeglinski added 13 points apiece in the win. Virginia managed a modest 61 points in the win, but was efficient in knocking down 59.5 percent from the floor (25-of-42), including 6-of-15 from behind the arc.