CHARLOTTESVILLE Va. — A large part of the North Carolina men's basketball team's early struggles in conference play has been its inability to stop — or even slow down — the other team's star.
Against Boston College the Tar Heels allowed guard Tyrese Rice to explode for 25 points. A week later Wake Forest's Jeff Teague blitzed them for 34 more.
Thursday at Virginia UNC faced a similar situation in trying to contain UVa. freshman Sylven Landesberg. This time around" the Tar Heels rose to the challenge and shut down the Cavaliers' No. 1 option.
""We talked about him all week in practice" senior Tyler Hansbrough said of Landesberg.
He's a driver. He likes to get through the hole" and I think some guys really stepped up and played some defense. It was a whole team effort.""
In order to take Landesberg out of the Cavalier offense" North Carolina threw waves of defenders at the young guard.
At first junior guard Wayne Ellington used his speed and athleticism to attack the passing lanes and keep the ball out of Landesberg's hands.
On other occasions senior Danny Green used his strength to negate the 6-foot-6-inch guard from finding his rhythm via the post.
After scoring the Cavs' first points of the game" Landesberg went the rest of the first half without scoring a single point.
""He's going to be a complete player" coach Roy Williams said after the game.
Right now his game is more of driving the ball to the hole" so we were trying to make sure that we cut off his driving lanes.
""We tried the same on Jeff Teague on Sunday and didn't do a good job.""
Right out of the gate in the second half" UVa. tried to get its star involved in order to mount a comeback. But the first time he touched the ball after halftime mirrored what happened in the first period.
Landesberg slipped past Ellington in the low post but before he could settle himself for a shot he got smothered by Green and Tyler Hansbrough.
The weak side help forced Landesberg to alter his move and the play resulted in a turnover — his second of the night.
At that point Landesberg was 1-for-7 from the field and seemed to shy away from the action on the offensive end.
Twice on one possession he passed the ball to a teammate without looking to apply any pressure to the defense.
A few minutes later it looked as though Green didn't even view Landesberg as a threat" straying nearly 12 feet away from his man to double the ball in the paint.
""Once he started missing some shots" he started being less aggressive and losing a little confidence and stopped attacking as much" Green said.
Landesberg's final stat line read two points on 1-for-9 shooting, and he played only 11 minutes in the second half — after recording 16 in the first.
While UVa. doesn't have the supporting cast of BC and Wake Forest, which would have allowed its star to run free, for the first time in conference play the Tar Heels succeeded in shutting down the big-time scorer.
That's one of the main things we've been trying to focus on"" Green said.
For us to execute that it shows how good we can be and the strides that we've taken forward.
""And we just got to keep moving in this direction and hopefully getting better and better on defense.""
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