Current Date: Fri, 06 Dec 2013 06:40:42 -0500
The North Carolina men’s basketball team’s 93-81 win against Virginia on Saturday was, by definition, a shootout.
Before Saturday, the Cavaliers (18-7, 8-4), who came to Chapel Hill with the second best defense in the country, hadn’t give up more than 69 points in a game. The Tar Heels hit that mark about halfway through the second half.
Most of that was due to the play of sophomore guard P.J. Hairston, who made his third start of the season.
“He’s a basketball player,” freshman Marcus Paige said about Hairston. “When he’s giving that kind of effort we can play him at any position. He’s going to shoot the ball well, and when he’s attacking the rebounds and playing the defense he’s been playing lately, we don’t lose anything by playing him at the four.”
Hairston had a career night with 29 points to go along with seven rebounds, two of them offensive, and a steal.
While the Cavaliers as a team couldn’t keep up with the pace set by the hot-shooting Tar Heels (17-8, 7-5) in the second half, Joe Harris kept things interesting as he went shot-for-shot with Hairston.
“Hairston and Harris today were terrific,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “But Joe, he scored in some different ways. Obviously, he shot the ball well, got to the lane off the dribble — it was a good individual performance”
Harris also had a career high in points and finished the night with 27 points. He was 10-of-13 from the floor and four-of-six from deep.
The Hairston-Harris shootout reached its most enticing point in the final five minutes of the game as the Tar Heels were pulling away.
Both players had 22 points when Hairston drained his sixth 3-pointer of the game and gave UNC it’s biggest lead at 18 points. Less than two minutes later Harris dropped in a two, but Hairston responded by attacking the rim and drawing a foul.
Hairston, who was seven-of-eight from the free throw line, made both of those attempts.
The competition between the two sharpshooters was just a part of the bucket trading that defined much of what was an exciting game.
Though Hairston has started two games in a row now and had career nights in both of those games, UNC coach Roy Williams was still tight-lipped about his plans moving forward.
“If you score 29 points, that’s not a very good reason to keep you in the game,” Williams said with a sarcastic smile.
Hairston, though, is making the most of it while he’s on the floor and taking a more aggressive approach.
“Knowing I’m in the starting lineup now I don’t get the chance to spectate other teams,” Hairston said. “But now I just know that I have to come out with an intensity to compete with the other team and find out what their weaknesses are and contribute against it.”
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