The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday April 13th

UNC rode the high of beating Duke. Then came crashing down against No. 9 Virginia.

Virginia forward Sam Hauser (10) shoots over North Carolina guard Kerwin Walton (24) during the game Saturday in Charlottesville. Virginia defeated North Carolina 60-48. Photo courtesy of Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress.
Buy Photos Virginia forward Sam Hauser (10) shoots over North Carolina guard Kerwin Walton (24) during the game Saturday in Charlottesville. Virginia defeated North Carolina 60-48. Photo courtesy of Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress.

Against No. 9 Virginia, first-year center Walker Kessler led the North Carolina men's basketball team's feeble scoring efforts with nine points.

The last time UNC didn't have a single player reach double figures in a game, a hot young band called The Beatles was gaining steam. Nobody knew what a Super Bowl was. The moon was just a light in the night sky, not a new frontier that humans could reach and set foot on.

That 21-20 loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament in 1966 may seem like a distant memory — one that half of UNC's fanbase probably wasn't even alive for. But the accompanying reality of that nightmare should come creeping back into fans' minds after watching the Tar Heels' 60-48 loss to the Cavaliers.

Saturday's performance serves as a reminder of the ceiling for this North Carolina team.

“We know where we are as a team and where we want to get to," said first-year guard Anthony Harris, who scored one point in his 11 minutes of action. "Obviously, we’re not there yet. We make a big point of just getting better every practice, just trying to make the end of the season better for us.”

Overall, this North Carolina team is better than last year.

Don't let a 48-point outing against one of the best defensive teams in the country fool you. The Tar Heels didn't manage 50 points in their other three most recent trips to John Paul Jones Arena either, including a 53-43 loss in 2017 just a few weeks before UNC won a national championship.

This isn't last year's team fighting and clawing its way through the season just to not finish last in the ACC standings.

But this year's squad does have limitations. And an offense that, at times, has the potential to fall to historically low floors.

The superhero version of Caleb Love, who poured in 25 points and knocked down nine of his 16 field goals against Duke just a week ago, was nowhere to be found. Instead, the Tar Heels were left with a shell of that point guard who only made two shots, one of which was a dunk.

The sharpshooting potential of Kerwin Walton and Leaky Black — who combined to make all eight of their shots in last week's win — evaporated against Virginia's stout pack-line defense in Charlottesville. North Carolina shot 12.5 percent from beyond the arc. The team's only two makes came from Walton, who didn't pick up his second 3-pointer until there were just over five minutes left to play.

“It’s not hard to figure out (Virginia's defense). You just gotta be able to handle it," UNC head coach Roy Williams said. "They’re very aggressive on the ball without fouling, they sag away from the ball, you’re going to get some open shots, but you got to be able to make open shots."

Virginia's defense also put a stop to the three-headed beast of Armando Bacot, Day'Ron Sharpe and Garrison Brooks that erupted for 39 points and gobbled up 21 rebounds against Duke. The Tar Heels barely connected on any close shots around the rim, fighting through constant double teams to finish only 10 of their 25 layups.

“It’s extremely frustrating," Williams said. "We work on our post moves every single blessed day trying to get them to concentrate on the rim and not see the defensive players come, but you have to give Virginia credit.”

In short, things couldn't have been much worse for North Carolina in this game.

But with only five games remaining in the regular season — and their importance increasing as the possibility of making up postponements shrinks slimmer by the day — the message for UNC is clear. 

“We have to care more," RJ Davis said. "That’s the main message.”

@McMastersJ

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com



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