Defense leads UNC to ACC win

Tar Heels gut out 48-45 win over Virginia Tech
Jan. 06, 2013 @ 06:52 PM

It has not been easy for No. 15 North Carolina  in any ACC game so far.

Yet again, the Tar Heels came out on the winning end of a close one on Sunday, edging Virginia Tech, 48-45, at Carmichael Arena.

Perhaps still feeling the effects of a dramatic 60-57 upset win over No. 8 Maryland on Thursday,  North Carolina (15-1, 3-0 ACC) was sluggish in the first half. The Tar Heels had just nine points in the first 13 minutes of play.

“Last year, the Maryland game (was an overtime loss at home) and I think the game after that was when we lost to Clemson (at home),” North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “That  (Maryland) game just takes a lot out of you. I’m not making excuses, but I was very concerned. In fact, it was up in the locker room on the board: ‘The Maryland game’s over. You’ve got to go do it again.’”

In some ways, the Tar Heels did do it again. They had to come back and take control of a game at home where they trailed, then nearly gave the lead back again.

The Hokies (7-7, 1-2 ACC) controlled the slow-paced game early and led by as many as nine as late as the 5:07 mark of the first half. But the Tar Heels forced Virginia Tech into 15 first-half turnovers (24 in the game) and scored 13 of their 22 first-half points off of Virginia Tech’s miscues.

 After Virginia Tech took a nine-point lead with 5:07 remaining, North Carolina went on a 27-9 run over a 15-minute stretch that spanned both haves to take a nine-point lead with 9:49 to play. Virginia Tech wouldn’t go quietly: the Hokies went on a 9-1 run to cut the UNC lead to two points twice.

 “I think we picked it up on defense,” North Carolina point guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who tied for the team lead in scoring with 14 points, said. “We started pressuring more and we started rebounding more towards the end of the first half, and it just helped us roll over to the second half.”

Ruffin-Pratt made foul shots down the stretch (4-of-6 in the final 2:36), but the Tar Heels had two missed shots and a turnover in that span to give the Hokies life. Virginia Tech had a shot to tie the game with 0.4 seconds remaining. The inbounds pass was caught by a Hokie in the paint, who made a lay-up well after time expired. Virginia Tech’s Uju Ugoka led all scorers with 15 points, while Monet Tellier added 12 for the Hokies, who had won three of their last four.


Forward Xylina McDaniel was the only other Tar Heel in double figures with 14 points, and the freshman played nearly 37 minutes.

“I’m a lot more comfortable,” McDaniel said. “At the end of the day, (the opponents are) going to be who they are and we’ve just got to play our game. There’s nobody that can match up with us. That gives me a little more confidence.”


UNC allowed Virginia Tech to shoot 41.9 percent from the floor, the highest percentage the Tar Heels have allowed since a blowout loss at Tennessee, when the Volunteers shot 48.1 percent. North Carolina’s defense has been its biggest asset all season, but eventually, the Tar Heels are going to have to make shots around the basket. The Tar Heels made 12-of-24 shots in the paint, but a number of their misses were point-blank lay-ups.

“Toward the beginning of the season, we were missing the ball short and it was hitting the bottom of the rim or right at the rim,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “Now, (the coaching staff has) put an emphasis on shooting the ball high off the glass and now it’s going too high on the glass. So I think we’ve just got to work on getting it to that right spot and just putting it in.”


North Carolina will travel to N.C. State on Thursday night for its first ACC road game of the season before hosting Georgia Tech on Sunday.


L Evans;27;3-6;0-0;2-3;3;3;6
N Evans;14;1-5;0-0;1-3;0;2;2

Percentages: FG .419, FT .583.

3-Point Goals: 2-7, .286 (Tellier 2-4, Ugoka 0-1, Fenyn 0-2).

Team Rebounds: 7.

Blocked Shots: 4 (Campbell 3, Ugoka).

Turnovers: 24 (Tellier 8, L. Evans 3, Fenyn 3, Hadley 2, Young 2, Ugoka 2, Campbell).

Steals: 8 (L. Evans 3, Fenyn, N. Evans, Young, Wilson, Hadley).

Technical Fouls: None.


Percentages: FG .333, FT .667.

3-Point Goals: 2-13, .154 (McDaniel 1-2, Rountree 1-4, Coleman 0-1, Buckland 0-2, Gross 0-2, Ruffin-Pratt 0-2).

Team Rebounds: 3.

Blocked Shots: 2 (McDaniel 2).

Turnovers: 20 (Butts 5, Rountree 3, Ruffin-Pratt 3, McDaniel 3, Rolle 2, Gross 2, Johnson 2).

Steals: 13 (McDaniel 5, Rolle 2, Ruffin-Pratt 2, Rountree 2, Buckland, Gross).

Technical Fouls: None.

Virginia Tech;22;23;—;45
North Carolina;22;26;—;48


Officials_Bryan Brunette, Edward Sidlasky, Joseph Vaszily.