CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Tyler Zeller scored 12 points and North Carolina used a 20-7 second-half run to overcome a long scoring drought and beat Virginia 62-56 on Saturday.
The Tar Heels (11-4, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed by as many as 11 after going 8:53 between field goals spanning the halves. Nearly 5 minutes had been played when Zeller's hook fell for North Carolina's first point in the second half, pulling them within eight points, 40-32.
Virginia (10-6, 1-1) managed only two field goals over the next 13-plus minutes, falling behind for the first time at 52-50 on John Henson's driving layup with 3:15 remaining.
The basket was part of an 8-0 run for UNC that erased a 50-44 deficit.
KT Harrell led Virginia with 13 points and Jontel Evans and Mustapha Farrakhan had 11.
The victory was the seventh in eight games for North Carolina, but seemed increasingly improbable when they lost their touch from the field. After making 11 of their first 17 shots, they connected just twice in the next 20 until Zeller's hook shot bounced in.
The 7-footer scored six more points during the long run, and Henson had four, including a driving layup on the left side that lifted them to their first lead of the half.
Joe Harris tied it for Virginia with a pair of free throws, but Justin Knox hit two from the line, Larry Drew hit two and Dexter Strickland one, giving the Tar Heels a 57-52 edge.
Two driving layups by Evans made it a one-possession game in the final minute, but Harrison Barnes made a free throw and Strickland hit two, and North Carolina held on.
The Tar Heels made nine of their first 15 shots and led 22-13 midway through the first half. They also had Cavaliers center Assane Sene and freshman Akil Mitchell on the bench with two fouls each and seemed primed to take advantage of a huge size advantage down low.
Instead, Sammy Zeglinski hit a 3-pointer, Harris hit another and Virginia almost duplicated its torrid shooting of the previous game, when it made 10 consecutive shots, nine from behind the arc. This time, it made nine of 11, including another 3-pointer by Farrakhan, and closed the half on a 16-2 run to take a 37-30 lead at the intermission.