No. 3 Virginia takes frustrations of Duke loss out on North Carolina
Virginia responded to its first loss by sharpening its focus back on what had carried the third-ranked Cavaliers to their best start in three decades.
The result was an impressive road win against a highly ranked league opponent, the kind that proves -- if there was any question -- that Tony Bennett's veteran-led team isn't easily shaken.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 17 points and Virginia's defense locked up No. 12 North Carolina in the second half to win 75-64 on Monday night.
Justin Anderson added 16 for the Cavaliers (20-1, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who regrouped after blowing an 11-point second-half lead in a 69-63 home loss to Duke over the weekend.
"They fought," Bennett said." I think we got back to the mentality that we needed to. ... Our way, it's a blue-collar way, it's a fighting way, and I think our guys responded well and really rallied."
They forced tough shots against the Tar Heels (17-6, 7-3). They refused to cede transition chances. They closed out on the 3-point shots that Duke used Saturday in a late barrage that ended their unbeaten start.
By late in this one, Virginia had turned a 33-32 halftime deficit into an 18-point lead and driven many of the home fans to the exits with 3 minutes left.
Bennett said he put the team through a tough practice Sunday with the goal of getting back to "some good, old-fashioned, blue-collar basketball."
"The guys, when they do that and they're right," he said, "they can play."
Virginia shot 52 percent, with Brogdon leading a balanced offense and the defensive effort on preseason all-American Marcus Paige.
"I think we have maturity, I think we have experience," Brogdon said. "I think we have poised guys. I (thought) we'd come out and handle business to the best of our ability, at least on our end, and see how UNC responds."
After shooting 52 percent in the first half, UNC went just 11-for-29 (38 percent) after halftime.
"They kicked our rear ends," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "That's the bottom line."
Paige finished with 15 on 5-for-10 shooting, though he went scoreless for nearly 33 minutes until scoring 10 in the final 2 minutes long after Virginia had taken control.
Worse for the Tar Heels, they were unable to speed up the confident Cavaliers and turn it into an open-court game.
"They run their stuff, they trust their stuff, and they buy into what their coach is telling them," Paige said of Virginia. "That's why they're so successful. ... We're trying to figure out how to do that."
Virginia: Anthony Gill had 13 points with seven rebounds. ... Virginia scored 18 points off turnovers. ... The Cavaliers had three turnovers after halftime and eight for the game. ... Virginia is now 8-0 in true road games this year.
UNC: Brice Johnson scored 14 points while Kennedy Meeks had 11 despite playing through a fever. ... UNC took a 34-27 rebounding advantage, but managed just 11 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds. .... J.P. Tokoto had one point on 0-for-3 shooting with one rebound in 30 minutes.
After shooting just five times against Duke, Virginia's London Perrantes had 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting while looking much more aggressive.
"I liked his approach," Bennett said.
One of the biggest improvements for Virginia came in transition defense. The Cavaliers allowed a season-high 14 fast-break points against Duke, but yielded one fast-break basket to UNC -- coming with 1:53 left.
"Duke beat us because they had a lot of opportunities where they could just go in transition and score," Gill said. "That's not the kind of basketball we play at Virginia."
The Tar Heels lost to a top-10 team for the second time in three days. UNC blew an 18-point second-half lead and lost by 10 in overtime at Louisville over the weekend.
Virginia hosts No. 9 Louisville on Saturday.
UNC travels to Boston College on Saturday.