Sunday night, North Carolina gets a chance to go on its first winning streak of 2010.
The Tar Heels already pulled out their first road win of the season against N.C. State on Tuesday, and next up are the overachieving Virginia Cavaliers.
“You hope it’s a big boost,” UNC coach Roy Williams said of Tuesday’s win. “The whole season — it’s just a journey. Each and every day you have opportunities to learn something.”
Statistically speaking, Virginia (12-6, 3-2) hasn’t done much to qualify its status an upper echelon team in the ACC. The Cavaliers are dead last in the conference in scoring offense, field-goal percentage defense, and three-point field goal percentage defense.
But they’ve also delivered a beating to Georgia Tech, a team that handed UNC in a loss at the Smith Center just a few weeks ago.
UVa. does it, oddly enough, with stingy defense (the Cavaliers allowed only three opponents to top 70 points) and hot shooting from beyond the arc.
Virginia leads the ACC in three-point shooting percentage with a 40.1 percent clip from downtown.
It’s a statistical breakdown that looks downright confusing.
Leading the way is silky sophomore guard Sylven Landesberg. Landesberg is fifth in the ACC in scoring at 17.5 points per game.
While Landesberg doesn’t do much damage from the perimeter (he’s only made nine 3-pointers this season) the Cavaliers do have three players who shoot at least .400 from beyond the arc.
But UVa.’s porous perimeter defense (ranked last in the ACC) might allow the Tar Heels to counter with Will Graves, who isn’t afraid to fire from deep. Graves can light up in a hurry, as his five 3s and 24 points against Georgia Tech showed.
And while Graves and fellow shooters Larry Drew II and Marcus Ginyard will be an interesting subplot to Sunday’s game, more important will be the sustained play of Ed Davis.
With Davis injured, UNC struggled to finish in the paint and didn’t have a go-to scorer.
But with Davis against N.C. State on Tuesday, the Tar Heels had a low-post scorer to eat up space.
Davis also frees up shooting room for Deon Thompson to operate. Thompson had 20 points against N.C. State.
Consistency has been an issue for the Tar Heels, who showed their youth in the first three-game losing streak of Williams’ tenure at North Carolina.
But it will go a long way toward maturity if the Tar Heels can pull out a second straight win in the ACC.
The lowdown on Sunday's game
Virginia vs. North Carolina
Broadcast: Fox Net
Radio: 1360 WCHL
Sylven Landesberg is one of the best scorers in the ACC, and his penetration is complemented by the Cavaliers’ perimeter shooting trio. Will Graves will need to have a big night just to break even. Edge: UVa.
Even if Ed Davis is limited by injury, UNC still has a sizeable edge in the frontcourt. Davis, Deon Thompson, and a few blocks from John Henson will be required, and the post will, as always, have to carry UNC. Edge: UNC
Henson, Dexter Strickland, the Wear twins and Leslie McDonald coming off the bench vs. … who exactly for UVa.? It matters more if UNC’s bench actually shows up, or if the inconsistency of youth remains. Edge: UNC
UNC is fresh off its first away win of the season. But the Tar Heels have struggled to show up in back-to-back games, and Landesberg’s Cavaliers have been surprisingly consistent this season. Edge: UVa.
The bottom line - North Carolina 74, Virginia 73
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