No. 25 Virginia falls to No. 7 Tar Heels, 54-51
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia was without its best player and offensive leader for much of the game against No. 7 North Carolina on Saturday. In the final minute, the 25th-ranked Cavaliers still had a shot to win.
The best look they got was Sammy Zeglinski from the left corner with 6 seconds left.
"It felt good," he said. "It was right on line. It was just a little long."
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams tensed as he watched. Zeglinski hit three 3-pointers in the game, and the basket would have added to what Williams called a "somewhat ugly" basketball game.
"We were very lucky that it didn't go in." Williams said. "That's the bottom line."
That it stayed so close throughout seemed unlikely with Mike Scott in foul trouble, and shooting poorly when he was in the game. The ACC player of the year candidate was 3 for 13 with six points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.
North Carolina had a 48-29 rebounding edge.
Jontel Evans had 13 points, Joe Harris 12 and Zeglinski 11 for Virginia (21-7, 8-6), which had its two-game winning streak broken. The Cavaliers made six 3-pointers, but were 1 for 11 from long range after halftime.
"It hurts to fall short," Evans said. "A lot of plays out there that we should have made."
Tyler Zeller scored 20 points, including a critical dunk with 13.3 seconds left and the shot clock winding down, as the Tar Heels won their fifth straight.
After Zeglinski's miss. Harrison Barnes missed a free throw for North Carolina, and Evans had one final shot, but his 35-footer hit the shot clock as time expired.
John Henson added 15 points, including 11 in the second half, as the Tar Heels (25-4, 12-2) kept pace with No. 5 Duke for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Blue Devils beat Virginia Tech 70-65 in overtime Saturday.
The game was close throughout the second half with Virginia leading by as many as six points and the Tar Heels taking a 42-41 lead on five consecutive points by P.J. Hairston.
The Cavaliers got the lead back once, at 49-48 with 5:59 to play, but Henson scored on a dunk and Zeller followed a Virginia miss by muscling one in with 4:11 to play, giving North Carolina a 52-49 lead.
Evans' steal and layup with 3:10 to play pulled Virginia within 52-51, and neither team scored again until Zeller got the ball at the right foul line elbow, took two dribbles and slammed it in with 13.3 seconds to play.
Virginia led 37-31 after Scott's baseline jumper with 17 minutes to play, but Scott picked up his third foul less than a minute later and went to the bench. The Cavaliers didn't score for more than 4 minutes, but retained the lead as the Tar Heels managed just four free throws.
North Carolina went more than 6 minutes without a field goal, but when Hairston ended that drought with a putback and followed on the next possession with a 3-pointer, they had their first lead of the half at 42-41. The teams traded baskets until Evans scored on a drive and Harris followed with a tip-in for the Cavaliers, giving them a 49-48 lead with 5:59 remaining and firing up a sellout crowd.
But the Cavaliers managed only one more basket the rest of the way.
The Cavaliers led 30-26 at halftime, and got there in a most unusual way — with Scott on the bench with two fouls.
Virginia finished the half on a 20-8 run over the last 8 minutes after Scott went to the bench. It helped that Zeller, who had 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting, also missed most of that stretch after picking up his second foul. The rest of the Tar Heels were just 3 for 18 from the field.
Zeglinski had eight points in the burst, including a 26-footer at the halftime buzzer.
Follow Hank on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr