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The Daily Tar Heel

Preparation Pays Off for UNC

After all, North Carolina's Blue team got that luxury in practice this week while preparing UNC for the game.

"We were practicing the press against the Blue team like two days ago and were turning the ball over a lot," UNC point guard Ronald Curry said.

"The execution was good tonight. We did have one or two turnovers, but we handled the press well. I think that's the difference in the game."

The No. 5 Tar Heels committed three turnovers in the win directly caused by the Cavaliers' pressure defense, a concern for North Carolina heading into the matchup. UNC had 13 turnovers in the game.

The Tar Heels were coughing the ball up 15.5 times a game heading into Wednesday. No. 13 Virginia was causing 19.6 turnovers a game.

"Proper preparation," UNC guard Joseph Forte said of the Tar Heels' performance against the pressure. "We've been over that. The day before we had six men on the court trying to simulate their press, and I think that paid off.

"We knew exactly what they were going to do. Of course, in the game it's a little bit quicker, a little bit faster."

That preparation not only helped the Tar Heels keep the ball in their own hands on offense, but it also helped them get the shots they wanted against the Cavaliers' defense.

UNC hit 56.9 percent of its shots on the night while holding UVa. to just 42.6 percent. The performance tied the Tar Heels' second-best offensive showing of the season. UNC's other two hot-shooting nights came against Appalachian State (56.9) and Buffalo (58.0).

Against Virginia, UNC penetrated, got the ball down low when available, and constantly found the open spot on the floor for the medium-range jump shot. The Tar Heels took a season-low 11 3-pointers.

After practicing against the Blue team's version of the Virginia defense, North Carolina always seemed to know where to get the ball to create high-percentage shot opportunities.

"It's just a case of not panicking and doing what we worked on all week long," UNC center Brendan Haywood said. "We worked on press offense all week at practice. We just had to do things we did in practice. Recognize which press it was and then know where to go."

Often the physical defense dictated where the Tar Heels would go -- the free-throw line. The Cavaliers committed 26 personal fouls, sending UNC to the charity stripe for 30 shots.

But Wednesday that was one thing that did go UVa.'s way. UNC didn't shoot much better from the line (63.3 percent) than it did from the floor. Still, it was enough.

Said Virginia's Travis Watson, "Tonight they were on their game against the press."

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