Williams, Heels know what happened vs. Cavs
First conference game, on the road, against an opponent with a unique and frustrating slow-down style.
There were plenty of reasons why North Carolina looked so bad Sunday night in a 61-52 loss at Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena, but none was of consolation to Tar Heels coach Roy Williams.
“All of those are good excuses, but we just didn’t freakin’ play,” Williams said.
Williams said the Cavaliers (11-3, 1-0 ACC) were better than UNC (10-4, 0-1) on both ends of the court because they were more alert and more aggressive.
The aggressiveness was an issue on getting good looks — Virginia shot 8-of-14 from long range, and UNC was 5-of-17 in part because the Cavaliers fought through screens to contest shots while the Tar Heels didn’t.
That also was an issue in UNC’s first loss when Butler shot 12-of-25 from behind the arc.
“We weren’t being aggressive enough,” UNC guard P.J. Hairston said. “We were setting screens on Virginia, but they were getting right through them and Coach definitely said that. We were running to their screens and looking for a call when we should have been more aggressive.”
On the other end, Williams said it was the worst game the Tar Heels have had in terms of setting and using screens.
But Virginia’s success shooting the ball, the Cavaliers made 52 percent from the field in the second half, also was because of UNC’s lack of awareness.
Williams described one sequence when the Tar Heels rushed to guard someone in the corner who wasn’t a 3-point shooter and left a player who was a deep threat wide open on the wing.
“We didn’t play very intelligently,” Williams said.
The Tar Heels had their biggest lead, 36-28 with 16:25 left, when all their mistakes came together to allow Virginia to score 10 straight points and take the lead for good.
“I think we just defended very well, on the offensive end we were moving the ball, finding the open man, everything was really clicking and we were feeling good about ourselves,” McAdoo said of the early lead. “I don’t know if we got complacent for the rest of the season half, but things just stopped.”
Dexter Strickland couldn’t get through a screen, allowing Virginia’s top scorer, Joe Harris, to make an open 3-pointer. Then UNC’s leading scorer, James Michael McAdoo, had his dunk attempt blocked from behind, and Akil Mitchell scored on a putback for the Cavs to make it 36-33.
McAdoo traveled — his game-high fourth turnover of the night — and Hairston lost Virginia shooter Paul Jesperson, who made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 36.
Leslie McDonald missed a 3-point shot — he finished 0-of-3 with two turnovers and two fouls in 15 minutes — then Harris caused McDonald to leave his feet on the other end, driving in for a layup that gave the Cavs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
After missing a game with a concussion, junior Reggie Bullock (22 points) helped UNC get back within at 51-50, but a similarly bad stretch for the Tar Heels in the final three minutes allowed Virginia to make another 10-0 run and seal the win.
“Sharing the ball, making mental mistakes, not getting to the boards, not finding the shooter in transition,” Bullock said. “Things we work on every day in practice, and we didn’t do it in crunch time when we needed it most.”
Virginia outscored UNC 33-16 over the final 16 minutes.
“It was a rude awakening for us to have that kind of loss where every play down the stretch they made and we didn’t make,” Williams said.