Three Things: Carolina 93, Virginia 81
Carolina got a quality win over Virginia on Saturday. The Tar Heels scored just 52 points in a loss on January 6 in Charlottesville. Saturday, they were able to dictate the tempo and played at a pace that made the Cavaliers uncomfortable. Turner Walston provides three quick takeaways from the 93-81 Tar Heel victory.
1. Shortening the rotation
As Dave Nathan and Eric Montross said after the game, condensing the Tar Heel rotation recently has contributed to two quality performances. P.J. Hairston entered the starting lineup Wednesday vs. Duke and has earned the right to stay there: he has 52 points over those two games. Certainly Carolina gives up some length with Hairston on the floor rather than, say, Desmond Hubert, but Hairston's leaping ability - he always seems to be at the rim (eight rebounds Saturday)- helps to make up for some of that. His scoring ability stretches the opposing defense and can open things up inside as well.
2. Turning the Paige
Marcus Paige was disappointed in his performance Wednesday at Duke (4 points on 2-9 shooting, 1 assist), but he bounced back in a big way on Saturday. Three-point threats like Hairston and Reggie Bullock require constant attention from the defense. Playing with them, Paige was able to find his own shooting touch (17 points) and play with more confidence.
3. Second half start
The Tar Heels again started the game slowly, falling behind by as many as 10. They made up that deficit and more, taking a three-point lead, before Jontel Evans nailed a desperation three to tie the game at 40 at the intermission. Roy Williams told his team not to let Virginia use that shot as momentum in the second half, and the Tar Heels scored the first eight points of the half, getting out to a lead they would not relinquish. The Cavaliers' Joe Harris is a scoring machine (27 on the day), and he had 11 of Virginia's first 13 points of the second half. But one man does not win a basketball game. In fact, nearly eight game-minutes had passed before Akil Mitchell became the first Cavalier not named Joe Harris to notch a field goal.