No. 10 North Carolina blows out reeling No. 14 Virginia

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
1 Comment

Justin Jackson scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half, adding six assists and four boards as No. 10 North Carolina made a statement on Saturday night with a 65-41 win over No. 14 Virginia in the Dean Dome.

Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks combined for 23 points and 15 boards as well, as UNC led by as many as 27 points in the second half.

The story of this game was UNC’s defense … or Virginia’s offense, depending on how you look at it.

The Cavaliers shot just 27.8 percent from the floor. They were 2-for-20 from three. Their bench provided nothing – they were 2-for-17 from floor – and that wasn’t much better than the starters – guards London Perrantes and Devon Hall combined to shoot 3-for-17 from the field. As a team, Virginia scored .683 points-per-possession.

How much of that was a result of North Carolina giving Virginia fits and how much was simply the Wahoos struggling?

Some credit has to be given to North Carolina, a team that has had their issues on that end of the floor this season. They were torn apart by Duke, which wouldn’t be all that bad if they weren’t lit up by Miami, Pitt and Notre Dame in recent weeks as well. With the offensive weapons this group has, they don’t need to be great defensively, but they have to be better than they’ve been.

On the other hand, this is a Virginia team that we knew was going to struggle to score this season. They don’t have a star like they’ve had in past seasons – Malcolm Brogdon ain’t walking through that door – and London Perrantes hasn’t been up to the task of carrying the load offensively. Losing Austin Nichols at the start of the season certainly didn’t help matters.

This is now back-to-back games where Tony Bennett’s squad has had these issues. On Wednesday, in a 10-point loss at home, Virginia managed all of 44 points in the first 38 minutes before they scored a flurry of points once Duke had the game in hand.

The result here is that Virginia has more or less found themselves out of the mix for the ACC regular season title. They’ve lost three in a row and five of their last seven, and frankly, it’s time to wonder just how far this team can go in the NCAA tournament.

Here’s the question that Virginia fans need to ask themselves: Were these last two games simply a result of Duke and North Carolina, a pair of title contenders, hitting their stride, or is Virginia just a team that needs to win games in the low-50s to have a chance?