GREENSBORO, N.C. — The North Carolina men’s basketball team (20-13, 11-9 ACC) fell to the No. 13 Virginia Cavaliers (24-6, 15-5 ACC), 68-59, to end the Tar Heels’ run in the ACC Tournament.
With Ben Vander Plas declared out for the remainder of the season due to injury before tip-off, redshirt senior center Francisco Caffaro earned the start for the Cavaliers. Both teams struggled to find success on offense early on, as UNC and Virginia shot a combined 3-12 from the field during the first five minutes of play.
RJ Davis snapped a near five-minute scoring drought for North Carolina after the junior guard rattled in a short-range jumper. At the second media stoppage, North Carolina held a two-point lead, 7-5.
Virginia’s packline defense continued to wreak havoc for the Tar Heels, as UNC committed five early turnovers. Junior guard Reece Beekman capitalized on a pair of North Carolina turnovers in transition and Virginia took its first lead of the night a little over halfway through the first period.
While North Carolina’s offense remained stagnant, Virginia opened up its arsenal. Behind an 11-0 run that saw the Cavaliers utilizers an array of slip screens and backdoor cuts, the Cavaliers built up an eight-point cushion. A late 3-point barrage from Davis helped UNC cut its deficit to 25-24 at the break.
The Cavaliers continued to get to their spots out of the half and fifth-year forward Jayden Gardner drilled a trio of buckets to open up UVA’s lead. Yet, Davis kept North Carolina’s deficit at a manageable margin as the junior guard continued his 3-point prowess with a pair of triples out of the half.
A Pete Nance and-one bucket momentarily trimmed Virginia's advantage to one possession, but the Cavaliers responded with a pair of quick baskets to push their lead back over five points.
With UNC’s back against the wall — and the Tar Heels trailing by double digits with 9:10 remaining — junior guard Caleb Love hit his first 3-pointer of the game. Moments later, Nance finished off a feed from Love and junior forward Puff Johnson converted a free throw to inch UNC within four points.
UNC would draw within two points late in the game, but clutch free throws from Gardner and graduate guard Kihei Clark would help the Wahoos ice away their win.
Who stood out?
When North Carolina’s offense struggled to get quality looks in the first half, Davis helped keep UNC within striking distance. The White Plains, N.Y. native accounted for half of the Tar Heels’ first-half points and finished with 24 points.
For the Cavaliers, Beekman weaved his way around off-ball screens and capitalized in isolation sets to tally 15 points. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year also added in five assists and five steals.
When was it decided?
After the Cavaliers trailed early, Virginia opened up an eight-point lead late midway through the first half. North Carolina would fight back, but every punch given by the Tar Heels was answered by UVA.
Davis’ and-one basket would draw North Carolina within two points late, but clutch free throws from multiple Cavaliers would help Virginia ice away its quarter final win.
Why does it matter?
The loss ends UNC's chances to clinch an automatic berth into the Big Dance. With the Tar Heels clinging to just a single Quad One victory — UNC’s home win against Virginia — North Carolina’s chances of earning an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament are slim to none.
When do they play next?
The defeat ends UNC’s run in the ACC Tournament.
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