Will Graves tried. John Henson tried. Leslie McDonald tried. And finally, Marcus Ginyard tried.
None of them could shut down Virginia’s Sylven Landesberg.
The sophomore led Uva. in scoring for the 13th game this season, notching 29 points for the Cavaliers — eclipsing his previous season high of 23 set in games against N.C. State and Longwood.
“He’s a good player,” UNC sophomore forward Ed Davis said. “I know last year we played him and he struggled against us, so I guess he was really pumped to play us this year.”
Landesberg shot 7-for-25 in two games against UNC last year. Sunday night, he had converted seven field goals within the first 15 minutes.
The Cavaliers could thank Landesberg in large part for their 35-30 halftime advantage, as he scored 16 of those points in the first half. When Virginia went on its 18-0 spurt at the start the second half, the game was effectively over.
“Many people were here tonight and watching knew that he flat-out killed us,” Ginyard said. “He was about the most efficient player that we’ve seen all year.”
Even though he scored 29 points, Landesberg did not dominate the ball or go one-on-one with his defender all that often. Most of the time, he would receive a pass, make a move and then score.
“If you’re going to take 18 shots and make over half of them, you’re doing a great job,” point guard Larry Drew II said. “He definitely led his team out there tonight.”
The Tar Heels tried to keep the ball out of Landesberg’s hands early, as Graves was very aggressive in denying the perimeter pass.
Landesberg had the counter, however, beating Graves to the backdoor for his ninth and tenth points of the game.
“We’ve got a lot of problems, but staying in front of the basketball has been one since day one with this team, and I really, really thought we would be a good defensive team,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
“Last game I thought we were good defensively. I thought we were good defensively against Michigan State, but we’re not really good defensively consistently.”
Landesberg devastated UNC with layups. For the game he shot 3-for-9 on jump shots, but he was 8-for-9 on layups. The most impressive came against Henson, when Landesberg used the rim to shield off Henson’s long arms and still convert the reverse layup.
“We knew coming into the game that he was a driver,” Drew said. “We tried our best to contain him, but he was getting to the rack pretty easy. That’s not the man defending him’s fault; that’s everybody else’s fault.”
With his drives being so effective, Landesberg only bothered to take a single three-point field goal, which he missed.
Each of the Tar Heel defenders made him work for his points, but often the help defense was a step slow to shut down the driving lanes. This left the on-ball defenders a step behind Landesberg, with the task of preventing him from scoring.
More often than not, it didn’t work.
“Sylven was terrific offensively,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “He was special.”
On two separate occasions, a Tar Heel was called for a blocking foul trying to draw a charge on Landesberg while he shot — and converted — a layup.
“One, we’re not staying in front of the ball, and two, we’re not getting help,” Ginyard said about their defensive struggles.
Landesberg’s performance marks the sixth time an opposing guard has scored at least 19 points — in ACC play alone.
“That’s exactly how I would describe it,” Ginyard said. “Another guy going off for big points.”
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