Court Vision: No. 3 Virginia dominates second half to beat No. 12 North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Barely 48 hours removed from its first loss of the season to No. 4 Duke with College GameDay in town and the nation watching, No. 3 Virginia (20-1, 8-1) got back to normal, dismantling No. 12 North Carolina (17-6, 7-3) on its home floor by a final of 75-64 that didn't feel all that close.
1. Virginia got back to being Virginia on Monday night
What the Cavaliers have done all season is just grind teams down into a mashy pulp until they submit to their will by the end of the game. An unseasoned observer might have tuned into the second half of this game and thought, 'What is North Carolina doing? Have they lost all their poise?'
Well, there's no question the Tar Heels took some bad shots and made some questionable decisions as the Cavaliers kept building and building their lead, and North Carolina had no answer on offense.
But that was because of how hard Virginia was making them work, at least in part, and the frustration they were feeling on that end of the court was palpable.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett was thrilled to see the team he'd wanted to see on Saturday, the one that he called "blue-collar" -- one that, frankly, wasn't necessarily comfortable with the bright lights.
"There was so much hype ... and it was a bit intoxicating. It was a bit, um -- not my cup of tea, I'll be honest with you," Bennett said. "But none of that stuff matters. It's about when the ball's tipped, I say that all the time, and playing the way we need to play. We didn't do that against Duke for the first 20 minutes.
"That's the challenge when a lot of attention starts flowing your way and things are there and everybody's patting you on the back and telling you how wonderful you are. That's fool's gold. You can't be like that, and I think our guys understand that."
On Saturday, Duke got a lot of easy baskets, particularly pushing up-court in transition. That's not Virginia basketball. Duke has some athletic players -- Justise Winslow, in particular, got some easy looks that way, but Virginia has contained athletic teams before.
Bennett showed them the tape and hammered it home for them what they had to do. North Carolina finished with just two fastbreak points, and the Tar Heels are identified more for their transition game than Duke, generally speaking (although both are more than capable, especially this year for Duke).
"Virginia knows that we like to run, so they obviously got back as much as they could," UNC sophomore point guard Nate Britt said. "Every time I can remember trying to push the ball up the court, they had five guys back. That's frustrating."
After Bennett showed them the tape of their mistakes, they had a hard practice -- for about an hour, but still a hard practice. Less than 24 hours after the Saturday night game and not long before the next day's game in Chapel Hill.
"We went really hard, but in short segments," Virginia junior guard Malcolm Brogdon said. "Coach Bennett didn't wear us out."
And it was something they needed. After that practice, they felt like Virginia again. It felt like it was over after that, like the palate had been cleansed.
Against Duke, there was a general tightness in the air, which was heavy with the weight of expectations.
There's no such thing as a good loss. But the Cavaliers were suddenly loose and relaxed, feeling more like themselves.
Junior guard Justin Anderson smiled and joked around with everyone from the officials to his teammates to North Carolina players.
Even North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.
After he and Brogdon botched a transition attempt in the second half, he turned to the head man and joked that his team wasn't as comfortable in transition as the Tar Heels. Williams returned his smile -- it's hard not to -- and said "We're walking it downcourt ourselves."
And that's the thing -- Virginia made North Carolina play its way. Ultimately, that's Virginia basketball.
"I think if we did what we did tonight against Duke, we could see a better result," Anderson said. "But at the same time, you've got to look at it as a blessing in disguise. You can't get that back but that loss is going to set us up for something better, I think."
2. London Perrantes was a difference-maker for the Cavaliers
The sophomore point guard has always tended to be more facilitator than scorer -- he hadn't been in double figures since January 3 -- but he's scored when his team needed him. And what it needed from him -- and still needs -- is for him to find that ideal balance between scorer and point guard.
He found it in this game, scoring 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and adding six assists to two turnovers.
But no one knew how he'd play going into this game. He had one of the turnovers down the stretch against Duke, and it was clear to his teammates that he was taking that Duke loss harder than the rest of them.
"One person that took it extremely hard after the game was London. ... From right after the game to tip off, London was just really quiet. He was locked in on one hand, but on the other hand, you could still see the frustration from that last game," Anderson said.
"I said, 'Man, could you talk to me? I'm not used to you not talking this much.' He said, 'I'll talk to you after we get this win.' Sure enough, he went out there and played really well offensively and led our team."
Perrantes admitted after the game that he might've been "in his feelings" after the game before that feeling gave way to one of eagerness to erase the bad taste.
Bennett wanted more out of his point guard, too.
"Coach Bennett talked to me a little bit about it after the Duke game, just to be more aggressive and take more shots. Towards the end of the game against Duke, I made some shots but I guess I wasn't as aggressive," Perrantes said.
"Today, I just took what the defense gave me and made a lot of midrange jumpers and hit that one three towards the end. It just opens up everything for other teammates, so I've got to do what I've got to do."
This was Virginia's best offensive game in awhile, and he was a big reason why. Perrantes is too good of a player, Bennett said, to worry about forcing a shot. He just needs to seek out his shot, and take them.
"London, him taking 10 shots and just aggressive in the lane -- he had six assists -- that just adds another dimension to us, and we needed all of it for sure. I liked his approach," Bennett said.
So what was the first thing that Perrantes said to Anderson, after his self-inflicted vow of silence?
"Well, (Perrantes) was talking to me during the game. I was talking trash to him telling him he wasn't good and all that," Anderson said with a grin. "So we told each other we love each other. This is a different type of group, a different bond that we have."
3. North Carolina probably will be all right, but they have some issues to address after this tough stretch -- like turnovers
The Tar Heels are a bit banged up in terms of their overall depth, and they've been in foul trouble in the last few games (which is, in its own right, a fixable problem).
But one thing has crept up as a big issue, and it's something that has to get fixed in a hurry -- turnovers.
In the last three games, Carolina has been outscored 56-28 off of turnovers and has turned the ball over on 25 percent, 25.3 percent and 20.3 percent of possessions in its last three games.
A lot of these are unforced -- well, more often than not. The opponents have to make plays, but they're also a result of over-passing or trying to make the spectacular play rather than the easy one.
North Carolina is not good enough on offense right now to squander possessions through carelessness.
In the last two games, North Carolina has let its opponent go on a big second-half run, often largely fueled by turnovers.
"I think when they went on their run, we did get a little out of whack there. We needed to keep our composure, and that's something that we didn't do," Britt said. "I feel like that's what hurt us a lot in these last two games and may have contributed to why we lost.
"We're playing really good teams. They both went on those runs and we didn't keep our composure. I feel like in the past, we were able to keep our composure and keep the game close throughout the game where we could grind it out. That's what we did against Louisville the first time and the second time, we didn't do a good job of that. And we didn't do a good job of that tonight."
32:51 -- The amount of time that North Carolina's leading scorer Marcus Paige was held scoreless. Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon was on him for much of that time, and he didn't even let Paige catch the ball most of the time.
51.8% -- That was the percentage Virginia shot from the field for the game -- over 50 percent in each half -- and the Cavaliers became just the second team this year to shoot that well against the Tar Heels (Kentucky was the other).