ACC Basketball

Tar Heels Hold Off Cavaliers

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

All good teams make a run. Yet, like we’ve always said over and over again, just keep the lead. Don’t let the team coming back to cross that threshold and more times than not, the team that holds it will keep it.

For over 30 minutes, North Carolina was in control. Their offense was clicking, shooting over 50% from the floor and they were not allowing Virginia to find their sweet spots, holding Malcolm Brogdon 16 minutes without a basket (scoring just six points at that point).

When Justin Jackson hit a jumper with 8:33 in the second half, the Tar Heels were up 13. Yet, the Cavaliers were coming. Led by Brogdon, who would score 17 of his team’s next 21 points, Virginia twice got back to within one.

The first time, at 2:18, with the score 61-60, they actually had the ball with a chance to take their first lead, but Brogdon slipped when Brice Johnson came to help and lost the ball out of bounds.

A minute later, a Brogdon layup cut the Carolina lead to 63-62, but after a timeout, Roy Williams called a great play and Marcus Paige delivered a beautiful drive, fake and mid-range jumper to get the lead back to three. Justin Anderson would miss an open three on the other end and from there it was about hitting free throws. North Carolina hit 6-for-6 and walked into the ACC Tournament finals with a solid 71-67 victory.

For the game, the Tar Heels hit 54.8% from the floor. It was the highest shooting percentage a team has shot against Tony Bennett’s squad this season. Marcus Paige didn’t shoot at a high percentage, but he still finished with 14 points, including the game-deciding shot. He dished out five assists, turning it over just once.

Justin Jackson led Carolina with 22 points, a career high. The freshman hit four threes in the game, including a couple of big ones early in the second half to help hold off the Cav’s comeback.

For Virginia, they were plagued by turnovers again, coughing it up 13 times. This is the fourth straight game they’ve had 13 or more (a total of 60 in their last four). Prior, they were averaging just 8.7 per contest.

Brogdon obviously led all scorers with 25, with 21 of them coming in the second half. To think that he missed so many easy layups early, he could have had more. Anthony Gill and London Perrantes each chipped in 12, but I’m starting to get a little worried about Justin Anderson.

Yes, it’s just his second game back, but he’s play roughly 30 minutes of basketball in those two games and he just doesn’t look right. He doesn’t look comfortable with the ball in that right hand with the broken wrist. Tonight he missed all four shots and he had no business taking two late threes with the game on the line. I’m not even sure why he was in the game.

I always thought the Cavaliers were a Final Four team, but that was assuming that Anderson would be back and close to 100% when he did return. Right now, he’s not even close to that number.

Now Virginia has dropped two of three and we can’t help but wonder if they’ve lost that one-seed? They have five wins over the top-25 in the RBI and eight against the top-50, but I could easily see the committee moving them to the 2-seed. However, what it could do is move Villanova to the 1-seed in the East, which would keep the Cavaliers in the East as the two.

As for North Carolina, they advance to the ACC Tournament Finals for the fourth time in five seasons. Of course they lost those other three and haven’t won it since 2008. More importantly though, does this win over Virginia move them back up to the 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament? Or do they need a win Saturday night to lock that up? Inquiring minds want to know.

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