The No. 25 UNC men’s basketball team (24-8) earned a gritty yet comfortable 63-43 win against the Virginia Cavaliers (19-13) to advance to the semifinal of the ACC Tournament.
The first half for UNC was all Brady Manek.
The graduate forward scored the first two points of the game, with an offensive rebound and reverse layup. Senior forward Leaky Black and sophomore guard RJ Davis later made their way onto the scoreboard, but Manek took over after that.
With the shot clock running down around the 14-minute mark, Manek bailed the play out with a 3-pointer. After a jumper from Virginia’s Jayden Gardner, Manek immediately answered with another 3-point shot.
Junior forward Armando Bacot helped the team cap off a 7-0 run in the half after blocking a layup and getting a dunk on the other end, making the score 16-9.
Later in the half, Davis split a screen and found Manek open for yet another shot from downtown. Not too long after, Manek knocked down a midrange shot off the dribble to increase the lead to 27-13.
In the same way he opened the half, Manek closed the half with an up-and-under layup to give himself his 19th point of the game and to give UNC a 33-13 halftime lead.
The Tar Heel defense held the Cavaliers to a horrid 5-27 from the field.
In the second half, points were still hard to come by for both teams, but other Tar Heels started to get more involved.
Bacot got some offense for himself with a short hook shot and a tip-in layup after a Manek miss. Sophomore guard Caleb Love also added in a pair of 3-pointers later in the gulf to give UNC a 51-26 advantage.
Manek did get on the board eventually in the half, getting inside for a layup.
UNC gave its reserves some time earlier than it typically does, allowing its starters to get some rest in a game that was decided early on.
As a result, transfer forward Justin McKoy – who came to North Carolina from Virginia – managed to knock down a 3-pointer late in the second half to put the team up 58-34.
From there, the team held on to win it 63-43.
Who stood out?
From the get go, Manek provided some much needed offense for UNC. He finished the game with 21 points, 19 of which came in the first half. He also added in seven rebounds and three assists.
In the second half, Bacot found his way into the offense a bit more. At the game’s end, he tallied 20 points and 11 rebounds for his 24th double-double of the season.
When was it decided?
The outcome was inevitable early on. As points were a rarity on Thursday night, once North Carolina went up by double-digits for the first time in the second half, it was difficult for Virginia to do anything to claw back in.
The 33-13 halftime lead proved to be too much, and UNC coasted to the win after that.
Why does it matter?
Prior to the start of the season, Virginia defeated North Carolina in seven consecutive games. After topping the Cavaliers 74-58 in the regular season, UNC managed to beat the team once again in the Tournament despite Virginia’s gusty 51-50 win against Louisville the day before.
The team’s ability to defend in a game where it mostly struggled to score will prove valuable in the postseason. Additionally, being able to rely on Manek for stretches can give this team a bail out option on offense at times when needed.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels advance to the semifinal game, where they will play the seventh-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.
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